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Transportation center awarded $15 million federal research grant, national designation

Dec 06, 2016
Grant supports Oregon Tech projects in rural highway safety, hybrid vehicles, transportation engineering education and infrastructure evaluation

Oregon Tech is part of a multi-campus program awarded a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, expected to be worth up to $15.6 million. The grant is administered by Portland State’s Transportation Research and Education Center, TREC, and is for transportation research, education and outreach.

The grant allows TREC to expand the National Institute for Transportation and Communities program, or NITC. The NITC program is a Portland State-led partnership with the University of Oregon, Oregon Tech, University of Utah, and new program partners, University of Arizona and University of Texas Arlington. NITC pursues safe, healthy and sustainable transportation choices to foster livable communities through research, education and technology transfer.

With the grant, the U.S. DOT recognizes the NITC program as one of five national university transportation centers. The Center’s theme is improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities. The NITC program previously earned designation as the national center for the livable communities theme.

“This grant upholds Oregon Tech’s role in shaping transportation decision-making in the region and beyond,” said Hallie Neupert, Oregon Tech Interim Dean of the College of Engineering, Technology and Management. “The University Transportation Centers program has funded important work at Oregon Tech in areas such as rural highway safety, hybrid vehicles, transportation engineering education and infrastructure evaluation.”

The NITC program will focus on four research areas: increasing access to opportunities; improving multi-modal planning and shared use of infrastructure; advancing innovation and smart cities; and developing data, models and tools. Among the 11 projects funded in the first year of the grant are:

  • A smart platform for connected vehicle infrastructure and signal control;
  • A multidisciplinary look at how the concept of walkability has left out disadvantaged neighborhoods and how to address those gaps;
  • Two innovative efforts to help transit connect people with jobs and opportunities;
  • An examination of the economic and business effects of converting infrastructure for non-motorized transportation;
  • A study to inform proactive traffic management during major disruptive events.

TREC Director Jennifer Dill said the grant affirms the NITC program’s contributions to improving transportation nationwide. “Since our Center’s founding in 2006, we’ve provided the research and insight to help transportation agencies serve all users,” Dill said. “We’re honored to continue leading this charge for the next five years.”

The latest grant means TREC has secured $48 million from a single federal program in the last 10 years. The requirement that each federal dollar be matched from a nonfederal partner has multiplied the effect of that investment, creating fruitful partnerships with more than 100 agencies and organizations, including state departments of transportation, local governments, foundations, universities and businesses.

Roger Lindgren, P.E., Ph.D., Professor of Civil Engineering, is Oregon Tech’s representative on NITC’s Executive Committee. Lindgren said that NITC's impact on Oregon Tech has been and now will continue to be significant. Oregon Tech faculty are eligible to be principal investigators on transportation education and research grants. In addition, NITC's five year funding of core campus grants for administration, student activity support, and scholarships are expected to total over half a million dollars. Oregon Tech programs benefiting from NITC grants include civil, computer systems, electrical, mechanical, manufacturing, and renewable energy engineering.

Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act competition, U.S. DOT received 212 applications for 35 grants creating 5 national centers, 10 regional centers and 20 lower-level centers. National centers must obtain matching funds equal to the $15.6 million grant amount, distributed over federal fiscal years 2016 through 2020.

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About Oregon Tech

Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is the premier public polytechnic university the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering, technology health technologies, management, communication, and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public, and international communities through hands-on, applied learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls, an urban, industry-focused campus in Wilsonville, an Online campus, as well as other degree deliver sites. Visit www.oit.edu to learn more about Oregon Institute of Technology.

About TREC

TREC, the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State, houses the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (the U.S. Department of Transportation’s national center for livable communities), the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation and the transportation data archive Portal. TREC supports transportation decision-making through primary research and educates current and future transportation professionals. http://trec.pdx.edu
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