STARKVILLE, Miss.--A Mississippi State researcher is praising a Magnolia State city at the literal crossroads of modern interstate, rail and air connections for the economic development aspects of its intermodal and multimodal transportation systems.
While recently in Meridian, Burak Eksioglu, an associate professor in the university's industrial and systems engineering department, gave special attention to the downtown area around Union Station.
His guide was Gil Carmichael, a local businessman and leading national intermodal transportation authority. Their exploration took place during the 40th anniversary of Amtrak, whose Crescent passenger line traverses the east Mississippi municipality between its New Orleans and New York City terminals.
"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, director of MSU's new National Center for Intermodal Transportation for Economic Competitiveness.
Mississippi State is the lead institution for the NCITEC, which is funded by a $3.5-million competitive University Transportation Center grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
NCITEC's mission is 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. Among other tasks, it will study how intermodal transportation investments promote jobs and economic development.
Carmichael, a Federal Railroad Administrator member under President George H.W. Bush, is the founding chairman of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver, which is one of MSU's NCITEC partners.
"Having the new national center located in Mississippi, a state that always has 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," Carmichael added.
The Meridian Union Station redevelopment project began 15 years ago with construction of a new multimodal transportation center. Over the years, it has been recognized nationally as an infrastructure investment model that has spurred 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," Eksioglu said.
"Union Station is the hub that ties all of it together," he observed.
While in the Lauderdale County seat of some 40,000 residents, 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."
Carmichael emphasized that "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."
Mississippi State University is online at www.msstate.edu.