Once farm commodities leave the farm, they face many infrastructure bottlenecks getting them to market and supplies for the next growing season (e.g. fertilizer). The Hutchinson Leader of Hutchinson, Minnesota USA has a good article about problems that local farmers in west central Minnesota are having in shipping via the railroad. The local shortline railroads like Twin Cities & Western Railroad and their sister railroads are able to keep up with demand, the problem is farther up the network into larger long haul railroads having shipping problems partly due to the increase of Baakan oil trains from western North Dakota.
The article mentions that some of this is not having enough engines and crews in the network after the lean year cutbacks of 2008 and 2009. Railroads are still more economical than hauling the same commodity by semi truck. Until railroads can increase their capacity, solutions like Intergraph’s Spatial Data Infrastructure is one solution. If railroads continue to have capacity problems then increased use of Intergraph’s Automated Permit Routing software can reduce mileage and shipping costs.
After last winter in the Upper Midwest/Northern Plains, many segments of the economy are just hanging on, so better transportation is needed to keep the local and regional economies strong and continued infrastructure investment is needed to keep commerce moving at a higher level.