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4/5/12 - MSU researcher: Intermodal critical economic development tool

A Mississippi State University researcher explored the economic development aspects of intermodal and multimodal transportation on a recent trip to the east central Mississippi city of Meridian, a community at the crossroads of modern interstate, rail and air connections.

Burak Eksioglu, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, toured the area around Union Station in downtown Meridian with Gil Carmichael, a local businessman and leading national intermodal transportation authority, as part of Amtrak's 40th anniversary celebration.

"During my visit, I was able to see how investment in intermodal infrastructure projects can leverage public and private investments to enhance both passenger and freight transportation, encourage local redevelopment, and set the stage for job creation," said Eksioglu, who directs the new National Center for Intermodal Transportation for Economic Competitiveness (NCITEC).

Mississippi State is the lead institution for the NCITEC, which is funded by a $3.5-million competitive U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) University Transportation Center (UTC) grant.

The NCITEC will work to promote development of an economically competitive, efficient, sustainable, and safe national intermodal transportation network by integrating all transportation modes for freight and passenger mobility. It will study how intermodal transportation investments promote jobs and economic development.

Carmichael, who served as the Federal Railroad Administrator under President George H.W. Bush, is the founding chairman of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver, which is one of Mississippi State's partners in the NCITEC.

"Having the new national center located in Mississippi, in a state that has always provided strong bipartisan leadership in transportation issues, will allow us to study what works and why," Carmichael said. "We'll need this research so we can better link our state, region and nation, and provide the mobility that keeps us economically competitive for the future."

The Meridian Union Station redevelopment project, which began 15 years ago with construction of a new multimodal transportation center, has been nationally recognized by many as a model for infrastructure investment's ability to spur millions of dollars in public and private partnerships for rural city redevelopment.

"The initial investment in the multi-modal transportation center in Meridian has been a catalyst for additional private investment in the city, including office and retail space, apartments and restaurants. Union Station is the hub that ties all of it together," Eksioglu said.

In addition to seeing first-hand the impact of the Union Station project, Eksioglu and Carmichael met with Meridian Mayor Cheri Barry and other leaders.

"We have an outstanding rail network in our country, and our intermodal freight system is the best in the world," Carmichael said. "However, in the 21st century, we'll need to learn to use this system differently to better move freight but also passengers around our country as part of the global economy. Connecting our airports, railroads, and roadways in a seamless way with our city centers will be a big project, but one that we must do."

For additional information, contact Eksioglu at beksioglu@ise.msstate.edu or 662-325-7625.

Jim Laird | University Relations and the Office of Research and Economic Development

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