The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has awarded the University of Houston Construction Management Department $148,282 for the research project, "Transportation and Economic Impact of Texas Shortline Railroads." In collaboration with Texas Southern University, the total award is $297,252. This is the third research grant awarded to the Department of Construction Management by TxDOT within recent years. The first two projects were "Manage the Transportation System" (a $75,000 research award) and "Study of Short Term Skid Improvements by Light Texturing with a Milling Machine" (a $297,468 research award).
The team of construction management professors includes Dr. Lu Gao, the Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Ahmed Senouci, and Dr. Lingguang Song, the Co-PIs. Construction management graduate students Daisy Saldarriaga and Omkar Dhatrak will work as research assistants to analyze and document the impact of shortline railroad operations for the State of Texas and local communities.
Shortline railroads have average annual operating revenues of less than $20 million and provide service to a small number of towns and industries, or haul cars for one or more larger railroads. Local businesses and industries in small communities rely on shortline railroads as primary sources of freight rail service and jobs. The researchers will explore the economic impacts of shortline railroad operations on smaller, rail-served communities throughout Texas. In addition to conducting customer interviews, the team will work with local community leaders, including mayors, economic development directors, and Rural Rail Transportation District (RRTD) officials to collect data for the analysis.