Focus on Freight

The CN and UIC/UTC Partnership: Three-Year Summary Report 2000-2013

From CN Stronger Communities Fund Initiative



Earlier this year, the Urban Transportation Center completed important industry research and activities underwritten by the CN Stronger Communities Fund, a community investment initiative administered by the Class 1 Canadian railway. The three-year CN-sponsored program provided $300,000 in funding that allowed us to do the following:

  • Convene transportation decision makers for a day-long multimodal transportation systems conference.

  • Offer fellowships to students within the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs that let them conduct specialized research.

  • And, provide matching dollar-for-dollar research support to launch four new freight rail-focused studies.

On behalf of the UTC faculty, staff and students, we applaud CN for its commitment and support in helping the UTC break new ground on freight research and education.  Through the CN Stronger Communities Fund grant, a truly diverse range of activities was carried out. Here are more details.



Convening Industry Leaders to Strengthen the North American Economy


On October 12, 2011, nearly 150 industry professionals gathered at the UIC Forum to attend “Rebuilding the North American Economy Together: Driving a New Era in Canada and U.S. Relations,” sponsored through the CN grant and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. The conference, co-hosted by the Urban Transporttion Center and Canada's Dalhousie University, was held at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Participants gained insight through featured presentations from industry leaders. The keynote speaker, Keith Creel, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of CN, outlined CN’s strategic position and ability to support innovation, collaboration, and productivity in Canadian-U.S. economic relations. Luncheon speaker Craig Middlebrook discussed the economic importance of leveraging the less-travelled Saint Lawrence Seaway corridore. And, closing speaker Rick Blasgen touched on the state of logistics and international trade. Breakout sessions addressed:

  • Carrier capacity issues.

  • The challenges and benefits of trans-border partnerships.

  • Aging infrastructure.

  • Public policy issues.

  • The growing vision to reduce congestion, improve efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions

  • Freight stakeholder and inland intermodal initiatives.

Click here for a copy of the Conference Highlights.



UIC Students Pursue Research Through CN Fellowships

Three UIC Urban Planning and Policy Master’s degree graduates or current candidates who are passionate about freight planning were awarded fellowships plus a tuition and fee waivers to complete their respective thesis. Each studied different rail research challenges.

Kyle Bardo conducted policy research on the relationship between Amtrak and private railroads and successfully defended his thesis, "Relationship Building with Freight Railroads Critical to Support Intercity Passenger Rail Development." Through his research, Kyle seeks to determine policy methods to support improved working relationships between rail carriers and the government. Click here to read the complete thesis, and click here to view a one-page brief.


Steven Manella, who earned his Master’s degree from UIC in 2012, submitted and defended his thesis on “Effective Approaches to Increase Public Benefits of Freight Intermodal Terminals." Read Steven's thesis by clicking here. Steven's research provided insight on how the working relationship between members of the freight transportation industry and public officials impact common development issues associated with freight projects.


Alexandra McNally finalized research on “Economic Benefits of Truck-to-Rail Mode Shift,” which explores the impact large intermodal centers have on local and regional economies. Alexandra's research included an analysis of property values of industrial land and spatial patterns that may surface along transportation corridors. Two Northern Illinois intermodal logistics centers -- CenterPoint Properties in Elwood and Global III in Rochelle -- were studied. Click here to read the complete intermodal report.


Funding for Valuable New Rail Research With Focus on Safety, the Environment

The CN grant also provided nearly $200,000 that was used to match dollar-for-dollar for a federal research funds through the NuRail Center. These funds allowed UTC researchers to complete these studies.


Pedestrian/Bicycle Warning at Rail Grade Crossings. Dr. Paul Metaxatos and Dr. P.S. Sriraj completed very compelling research into pedestrian and bicycle safety at railroad grade crossings. The study, "Pedestrian/Bicyclist Warning Devices and Signs at Highway-Rail and Pathway-Rail Grade Crossings," highlighted the multitude of factors related to pedestrian safety in this context and provided an informed discussion for stakeholders to advance safety initiatives.


Rail Infrastructure Environmental Assessment. Research led by Dr. Ning Ai and graduate assistant Marcella Bondie will help develop a “sustainable rail scorecard” in Illinois. The project, "Environmental Impact Assessment of Rail Infrastructure in Illinois," has developed an integrated tool that incorporates key metrics to assess the environmental, ecological, economic and social impacts of rail transportation in a Geographic Information System (GIS) framework.



CN Supported Papers and Presentations

Annual Report to the CN Railway 2009-2010

Chicago's CREATE Program: A Successful Public/Private Partnership:     Presentation        Paper

Development of Small-Area Origin-Destination Freight Flows for Metropolitan Planning

Challenges and Opportunities for the Illinois Coal Industry







The Center for Supply Chain Management and Logistics



CMAP Freight Committee

The Transportation Research Forum

TRF Chicago

The Canadian Transportation Research Forum