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Transportation Research Highlights Metro Areas Vulnerable to Rail Accidents

Posted: Sep 18, 2023

Recent research at North Dakota State University to quantify freight flow disruption risks from railroad accidents shows that five U.S. metropolitan areas are at least five times more likely than others to experience a railroad accident.

Raj Bridgelall and Denver Tolliver, researchers with NDSU's Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI), developed a data mining workflow to rank commodity movements that are at the highest risk of disruption from railroad accidents and other types of regional disasters that can affect railroad operations. They found that that five U.S. metropolitan areas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Newark, are at least five times more likely than others to experience a railroad accident. Those five areas account for more than 40% of the monetary value in alcoholic beverages, raw meats, gasoline, plastic- and rubber-based products moved by rail. Hence, any disruption in those five areas can lead to widespread shortages of those commodities.

"As experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages due to supply chain disruptions can lead to price gouging and hoarding as consumers rush to acquire scarce items," Bridgelall said. "This work suggests that decision-makers should focus risk mitigation and resiliency strategies in those five metropolitan areas and on the top commodity categories at risk."

The work is described in the article "Quantifying Freight Flow Disruption Risks from Railroad Accidents" in a recent issue of the journal Quality & Quantity. (Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11135-023-01727-3)

Bridgelall is director of UGPTI's Center for Surface Mobility Applications & Real-time Simulation environments (SMARTSe) and is an associate professor of transportation and logistics at NDSU. Tolliver is the director of UGPTI.

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