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UTC Research

As noted, US DOT does not directly fund specific research projects. Instead, the Department awards funds to Centers, which select specific projects and activities to fund. These projects and activities are based on the criteria described in the Centers’ strategic plans. These criteria vary by UTC, but typically include some or all of these factors: relevance of the proposed project or activity to the UTC theme; soundness of proposed methodology; level of student and faculty involvement; use of UTC laboratory facilities; pedagogical opportunities; relationship to ongoing research; relationship to strategic partners; availability of matching funds; proposed budget; potential for local, state, or national impact; potential for meeting US DOT strategic goals, and potential for deployment and/or commercialization.

UTCs frequently have strong partnerships with their state transportation agencies and are valued intellectual assets in their respective states and regions. UTCs bring to bear the acumen, creativity, and analytical aptitudes of recognized experts, academicians, and students to complex transportation challenges.

UTCs typically select their research projects through committees composed of a mix of faculty, public, and private sector practitioners, and sponsoring local, state, and/or federal partners. US DOT representatives participate in these research selection committees by providing expert advice on specific research topics as well as information and guidance to the universities on the relevance of the projects to US DOT research agenda and policy priorities, not as regular voting members of these committees.

UTCs report annually on the status of ongoing research and submit the final reports to RITA. They are also required to post research project descriptions of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) Research in Progress online database, as described in the box on page 17.

The UTCs send copies of final research reports to the National Transportation Library at Northwestern University, the Institute of Transportation Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and the National Technical Information Service at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In addition, UTCs are required to provide a link to full report text to the Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS). UTCs post and archive their research reports on their individual websites and notify TRB staff when a new report becomes available. TRB indexes and abstracts the reports with links from the TRIS record to the full text on the UTC websites.

UTC Faculty Recognized for Research Excellence

UTC professors are at the heart of the UTC program. Their academic achievements, creativity, and expertise fuel research projects. Some of the professors recognized for research excellence in 2006 and 2007 are listed below.

Region II UTC Best Research Paper of 2006 went to Daniel Hess, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning, University at Buffalo/SUNY for his paper on "Light Rail Lite or Cost-Effective Improvements to Bus Service? Evaluating the Costs of Implementing Bus Rapid Transit" written in collaboration with B.D. Taylor and A.C. Yoh and published in Transportation Research Record, No. 1927, pp. 22-30.

2007 O. Hugo Schuck Award for best paper in controls systems went to Rajesh Rajamani, Ph.D., Associate Professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, for research on tire-road friction estimation.

Marc Schlossberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon was a recipient of a Fund for Faculty Excellence Award in 2007. This award honors faculty members performing at the forefront of their areas of research at the UO. Dr. Schlossberg is an OTREC Associate Director and Executive Committee member, and principal investigator on a project studying "active transportation, neighborhood planning and participatory GIS."


Surface transportation research at the US DOT supports the strategic goals of the Department in safety, congestion reduction, global connectivity, environmental stewardship, and security emergency preparedness and response, as described in the US DOT Strategic Plan, FY 2006-2011. Below are a few examples of recently completed or ongoing UTC research projects that support the strategic goals of the US DOT.

UTC Safety Research

University: Pennsylvania State University
Project: Portable Sign Crash Test
Description: Development of portable sign post structure final designs and standard drawings for PennDOT with clearly defined information for the proper design of these structures following NCHRP 350 criteria.

University: Montana State University
Project: Analyses for Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data: Applications for Guiding Decision-Making for Wildlife Crossing Mitigation & Motorist Safety
Description: Use of wildlife-vehicle collision data to aid transportation management decision making and mitigation planning for wildlife. Recommendations will be provided to transportation departments regarding road-kill data collection techniques, the value of systematically and accurately recorded information, and how different analytical techniques can aid in identifying and prioritizing problematic areas for highway mitigation projects

University: University of Missouri, Columbia through the Midwest
Project: Transportation Consortium at Iowa State University Secondary Accident Data Fusion for Assessing Long Term Performance of Transportation Systems
Description: This project proposes the use of data fusion of intranet traffic reports with the accident database, and will result in a near-term technology for analyzing the safety impacts of transportation assets.

University: Texas A&M
Project: Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) Based Road-Condition Warning System for Highway Collision Prevention
Description: This project will investigate the application of the VII technology for highway crash prevention by providing real time roadway condition information and to estimate its benefits on highway safety under various roadway geometric and traffic conditions.

University: Iowa State University
Project: Development of Fatigue Design Procedures for Slender, Tapered Support Structures for Highway Signs, Luminaries, and traffic Signals
Description: The study developed a procedure for predicting wind loads for the fatigue design of slender, tapered luminary support structures. Cantilevered signal, sign, and light support structures are used nationwide on major interstates, national highways, local highways, and at local intersections for traffic control purposes. Recently, there have been a number of failures of these structures that can likely be attributed to fatigue. The equations used for vortex shedding fatigue design were reevaluated and the study recommended reformulations and modifications.

University: University of Tennessee
Project: Transportation and Emergency Services: Identifying Critical Interfaces, Obstacles, and Opportunities
Description: This research examined the commitment to improved coordination among highway transportation and emergency services organizations. It identified and evaluated the underlying obstacles and opportunities through a survey administered to transportation and emergency services professionals in five states. Based on the survey results and subsequent focus group discussions, recommendations are offered for short-term improvement of emergency transportation operations and for additional research.

TRB Research in Progress Online Database

RITA partners with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to support the availability of a publicly available UTC searchable category in the existing web database for Research in Progress (RiP). This feature allows UTCs to enter on-going research projects into the database as well as view all research in progress by state departments of transportation. The RiP database also serves as a tool to avoid research duplication.

UTC-proposed and on-going research may be searched by State, UTC type and by subject categories.

RITA has contracted with TRB to develop an annual report of UTC projects entered into RiP and TRIS for dissemination to US DOT modes, the UTC community, Congress and other groups as appropriate.

UTC Congestion Reduction Research

University: Montana State University
Project: Promoting the Use of Bicycles on Federal Lands
Description: Through case histories, researchers will identify barriers federal land managers face in providing bicycle facilities, identifying successful existing bicycling facilities, creating guidelines for measuring performance of bike access on federal lands and creating a guide of potential solutions for the barriers identified.

University: Northwestern University
Project: Bridge Asset Management Based on Life Cycle Cost Considerations
Description: This research project is aimed toward (a) determining the asset value or total life- cycle cost, as well as the achievable useful life, of bridges and (b) suggesting design, preservation, and improvement practices that lead to lowest life-cycle cost.

University: University of California, Berkeley
Project: Measuring Recurrent and Non-Recurrent traffic Congestion
Description: This research project developed a methodology to identify and measure total, recurrent, and nonrecurrent congestion delay on urban freeways that are instrumented with loop detectors or other surveillance systems. The methodology calculates the average and the probability distribution of congestion delays by cause (recurrent, incident-related, weather, and other factors) and quantifies the congestion impacts on travel time and travel time variability.

University: City University of New York
Project: Impact of Congestion on Bus Operations and Costs
Description: Traffic congestion in Northern New Jersey imposes a substantial operational and monetary penalty on bus service. The purpose of this project was to quantify the additional time and operational costs due to traffic congestion. The results indicate that the time increment due to congestion would be 423,000 vehicle hours and the monetary cost of the time would be $27 million.

University: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Project: Strategies and tools for decentralized management of urban transportation
Description: This project aims to improve coordination among urban transportation facility owners and operators as they deploy Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITSs). Researchers have contended that ITS will serve as the "regional integrator," tying together what they often describe in American cities as a fragmented, loosely related collection of providers of transport operations and infrastructure. Our work will describe the full set of tradeoffs associated with different scales of operation-from fully centralized to decentralized or distributed-and will develop analytical techniques for representing and reducing the cost of interagency communication.

University: California State University, Long Beach
Project: Evaluating the Efficiency of Traffic Mitigation Fees at the San Pedro Bay Ports in a Congestion-Pricing Framework
Description: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the economic efficiency of the recently implemented "Traffic Mitigation Fee" (TMF) at the San Pedro Bay ports by comparing it to a fee structure that would generate a socially optimal mix of peak and off-peak truck traffic. This research focuses on delay costs suffered by the trucking community at the hand of shippers who dispatch an inefficiently large number of trucks to the ports during peak periods.

University: Texas A&M/Texas Transportation Institute
Project: Texas Transportation Institute Urban Mobility Report
Description: Sponsorship from Texas A&M's University Transportation Center for Mobility dramatically improved the estimates of urban congestion in the 2007 Urban Mobility Report. Center funding allowed the researchers to develop improved estimation techniques that take advantage of data from the most advanced traffic monitoring systems in the United States. The analysis was also extended to include congestion estimates for all U.S. urban areas, and there were significant advances in the discussion of congestion solutions. Current sponsorship will assist in improvements to the estimates of the role of public transportation and Intelligent Transportation Systems in addressing congestion issues.

Region IX UTC Hosted 11th World Conference on Transportation Research

On June 24-28, 2007, the 11th World Conference on Transport Research (WCTR) was hosted by the University of California, Berkeley. Elizabeth Deakin, Ph.D., Region IX UTC Director, was Director of the conference of the first WCTR held in the U.S. The conference drew over 1,000 participants from 49 countries.

Nearly 1,000 presentations were made at the conference's 178 sessions. 922 reviewed and revised papers were included in the conference CD, from an original pool of 1,536 abstracts.

Keynote Speaker and Nobel Laureate, Daniel McFadden, spoke on "The Behavioral Science of Transportation."

A French-speaking seminar was sponsored by the French Government.

Over 150 fellowships were made possible by contributions from sponsors, including the US Department of Transportation, the California Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, AC Transit, the World Bank Institute, the San Francisco County Congestion Management Agency, and Dowling Associates.

UTC Global Connectivity Research

University: Texas A&M
Project: The Potential for Improving Rail International Intermodal Services in Texas and the Southwest Region of the United States
Description: This project will determine 2006 Asian trade flows on several global transportation corridors other than those that begin at the southern Californian terminals at Los Angeles and Long Beach. This project will also evaluate the opportunity for Texas and the south western states to benefit from rail investments and reduce highway congestion, especially in the case of NAFTA traffic, which is still dominated by the trucking sector.

University: University of Rhode Island
Project: A Strategic Model for Optimal Scaling of International Container Ports
Description: This project will develop and estimate empirical and theoretical models to develop a modeling tool of market entry and demand for port services. The broad objective is to assist planners in determining whether they can capture and profitably defend shipping market share as a hub, traditional land-sea cargo port, or regional feeder port. It will also help them determine whether there are additional gains from cooperative development and in assessing the effects of service interruptions among existing ports due to labor dispute, accident, natural disaster, or other event.

University: City University of New York and New York University
Project: Assessing New York's Border Needs
Description: This study examined the implications for both the state and country if New York's key border and corridor needs are unmet. The study team analyzed the border crossing needs identified by New York State Department of Transportation and other agencies, and looked at origin/destination patterns to identify the role of New York's trade corridors in US-Canada trade. The study analyzed the trade-offs that can be made within the framework of state and national policy objectives and scarce resources. It provided an overview of proposals at each of New York's major crossings and concluded with an evaluation of funding prospects.

University: University of Southern California
Project: Evaluation of Extended Gate Operations at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
Description: This research project tracked the implementation of PierPASS at the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports over a period of 2 years. Under continued pressure to adjust operations to mitigate traffic and air quality impacts of port operations and in response to threatened regulatory legislation, terminal operators implemented PierPASS, a voluntary program of extended gate hours. PierPASS assesses a Traffic Mitigation Fee (TMF) on eligible containers moved into and out of the ports during peak hours. The methodology used included extended interviews with stakeholders, together with data provided by PierPASS and by four drayage trucker surveys. Researchers found that the PierPASS program resulted in a significant temporal shift of cargo moves at the ports to evenings and weekends as intended, thereby, contributing to reduced congestion and vehicle emissions.

UTC Environmental Stewardship Research

University: Missouri University of Science and Technology
Project: Best Practices for Implementing a Biodiesel Program
Description: This project will review the policies and procedures of state governments, DOTs, or agencies that influence the pricing and availability of biodiesel, review literature and other state practices related to biodiesel quality and year-round operating capability, and compare fuel efficiency of biodiesel v. conventional diesel.

University: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Project: Solar Powered Lighting for Overhead Highway Signs
Description: This project will design and develop a solar powered lighting system for overhead highway signs with a view to improving night visibility, driving conditions, and highway safety. Two systems will be developed and tested: one system will utilize regular fluorescent tube lights for shining light on the sign, and the other system will employ electroluminescent fibers to highlight the letters in the sign and/or the boundary of the signboard. The system will incorporate a power management controller to adjust the lighting effect to compensate for weather conditions for days with inadequate solar charging.

University: California State University, Long Beach
Project: Impact of New Diesel Fuels Used in Port Operations on Subsurface Quality
Description: The purpose of this project is to quantify how the release of a potential new diesel fuel-diesohol-might affect the movement and fate of contaminants in the aqueous phase of the subsurface. Software will be developed to model subsurface flow that accounts for the effect of surfactants (ethanol and other fuel additives) on flow properties, and the dissolution and degradation of diesel components and pre-existing organic contaminants. The distribution of aqueous organics will be quantified for scenarios involving spillage at the soil surface, release from an underground storage tank, and release at a site previously contaminated with organics.

University: University of Vermont
Project: Integrated Transportation and Land Use Models: Greenhouse Gas Metrics
Description: Net greenhouse gas "footprint" of Chittenden County, based on fuel consumption and land use change. The project will integrate transportation emissions and land use change emissions and sequestration profiles to produce a greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint analysis tool for the integrated model framework. This will provide a basis for evaluating the effects of policies targeted at mitigating GHG emissions.

University: University of California, Davis
Project: Studies in Consumers and Automotive Fuel Economy: A Qualitative Field Test of the Effects of Driver Feedback on Automotive Fuel Consumption
Description: Rising gasoline prices, greenhouse gas emissions, and war in oil-producing regions motivate research on the contribution that energy-use feedback to drivers could make to reduce petroleum consumption. This project examines the effects of energy use feedback on household drivers of conventional and hybrid light-duty vehicles. Drivers will be interviewed and commercially available devices will be installed in some drivers' vehicles. This qualitative research is expected to produce insights into specific types of driver feedback and to produce the requisite knowledge to design and deploy a larger scale study to produce estimates of generalizable effects.

UTC Security, Preparedness, and Response Research

University: Texas A&M
Project: An Assessment of Cargo Security Procedures for Texas Land and Marine Ports of Entry
Description: The goals of this project are to identify the data needs for securing containers, drivers, and vehicles entering through the state's ports of entry, to identify what data collection procedures and technologies are currently planned or in use, and to assess what gaps may exist in these practices. Once needs are identified, recommendations for potential technological or procedural changes to improve on current practices will be developed.

University: University of Minnesota
Project: Multi-Camera Monitoring of Human Activities at Critical Transportation Infrastructure Sites
Description: This project leveraged research sponsored by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that examined ways to detect specified activities and count humans in crowded scenes. The researchers further developed methods to automatically detect and spatially estimate an occlusion (common in crowded outdoor scenes) in world coordinates. The algorithms were tested at the transit stations where the DHS system is currently deployed and covered activities that are not of interest to the DHS but are of major interest to Metro Transit (e.g., loitering, graffiti, drug dealing) and are directly applicable to other transportation infrastructure sites.

University: University of Rhode Island
Project: Acoustic Detection and Monitoring for Transportation Infrastructure Security
Description: The objective of the project is to test the feasibility of using forward looking sonar to detect and monitor divers and to measure their acoustic target strength. This project will develop recommendations and design guidelines for an acoustic system that when deployed in the field, will detect and monitor potential underwater threats to marine transportation facilities.

University: San Jose State University
Project: Designing and Operating Safe and Secure Transit Systems: Assessing Current Practices in the United States and Abroad
Description: This research project documented and analyzed factors influencing transit security. The major findings were: (1) the threat of transit terrorism is probably not universal-most major attacks in the developed world have been on the largest systems in the largest cities; (2) this asymmetry of risk does not square with fiscal politics that seek to spread security funding among many jurisdictions; (3) transit managers are struggling to balance the costs and (uncertain) benefits of increased security against the costs and (certain) benefits of attracting passengers; (4) coordination and cooperation between security and transit agencies is improving, but far from complete; (5) enlisting passengers in surveillance has benefits, but fearful passengers may stop using public transit; (6) the role of crime prevention through environmental design in security planning is waxing; and (7) given the uncertain effectiveness of antitransit terrorism efforts, the most tangible benefits of increased attention to and spending on transit security may be a reduction in transit-related person and property crimes.