MnDOT Freight Rail and Economic Development Study


With numerous Class I railroads and 14 Class III short line railroads, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is interested in the economic significance of freight rail to business development. Short line railroads serve an important role as they connect rail shippers to Class 1 railroads, which enables shippers to cost-efficiently move their products and strengthen Minnesota’s economy – access to rail is a key consideration as sites are evaluated for new business.

The Minnesota Freight Rail Economic Development Study identified opportunities for shippers, railroads, and economic development and transportation agencies to more effectively support expanded local rail access, complementary business development, and improved rail and intermodal service options for the Minnesota freight rail network. SRF was a member of the consultant team working with MnDOT.

Key study activities included:

  • Preparing an educational video on the benefits of rail-oriented business development and opportunities to enhance rail economic development.
  • Conducting a peer review of rail-related programs in other states, including a two-day workshop with attendees from 10 states and five railroads.
  • Compiling profiles of Minnesota rail-oriented shippers and industries.
  • Performing an evaluation of current levels, strategies, and effectiveness of railroad marketing efforts.
  • Coordinating with other state and local agencies, such as the Department of Employment and Economic Development, to learn about current resources and programs.
  • Developing a shipper toolkit to provide new rail users with resources on how to use railroad transportation.
  • Evaluating legal, policy, and statutory benefits and barriers for rail shipments within Minnesota.


Minnesota Department of Transportation