Transportation research has long been a pearl of the university. Two recent major grants building on that history are now moving the study of traffic, highways, safety and freight mobility forward as a crown jewel of research at FAU. Transportation studies touch on every part of our daily lives from commuting to work to where we go for vacations, from where we choose to live, to our personal and national economic vitality. Faculty have taken on the challenge of discovering new ways to break through gridlock and improve traffic safety, performance and the movement of freight. Their work has the potential to better the quality of life for people nationally and globally.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has earmarked millions in grant money to FAU for separate studies addressing road safety and freight mobility, boosting the university’s research efforts to an elite level.
The College of Engineering and Computer Science will be the recipient of $1.4 million per year for five years for its Freight Mobility Research Institute, housed in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering.
With a combined match from the state and private sectors, the total award exceeds $10 million. The money will fund research to address critical issues affecting the planning, design, operation and safety of U.S. intermodal freight transportation systems with the goal of strengthening the country’s economic competitiveness.
“Efficient and safe freight movement is inextricably linked to the economic vitality of a local area, state, region and even beyond,” said Evangelos Kaisar, Ph.D., director and principal investigator of the Freight Mobility Research Institute.
Of the more than 200 proposals submitted to the University Transportation Center Program, the federal agency funded and designated 20 institutions, including FAU, to be a Tier 1 center. “This center has the potential to greatly impact people’s life by improving freight transportation systems, reduce transportation costs by millions of dollars for delivery of goods and services; and support faster, more reliable transportation from one place to another," Kaisar said. “Beyond lower dollar costs to shippers, reductions in transit time and/or increases in schedule reliability can be expected to also have significant impacts.”
The institute will lead a consortium of experts from universities throughout the nation to address the DOT’s strategic goal of improving mobility of people and goods. Information technology, freight network modeling and operations, intermodal logistics, and freight and supply chain sustainability will be implemented by the team to address priorities of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, a bill governing U.S. federal surface transportation spending.
“The goal is to promote smart cities, improve multimodal connections and minimize cargo transit time, including optimizing intermodal transfer efficiency (i.e., transfers at terminals), and first- and last-mile deliveries,” Kaisar said.
The transportation department also awarded up to $15 million for five years to create the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety housed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. FAU is co-directing this National University Transportation Center.
With the goal of improving road safety, researchers in the College for Design and Social Inquiry will collaborate with four other designated centers based at the following institutions: University of North Carolina, Duke University, University of California, Berkeley and University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“We’re speaking with transportation officials from all major cities to identify safety needs, run focus groups and collect safety-related data for conducting research,” said Eric Dumbaugh, Ph.D., associate director of the new Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety.
“We need to get an understanding of where the gaps and needs are so we can address safety in an interdisciplinary manner,” said Dumbaugh, who is known for his expertise in transportation and urban design.