University receives $16M to research transportation

Derrick Biney

The University’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute has received $16 million in federal aid to further the department’s research efforts.

On Aug. 10, President George W. Bush signed a federal transportation bill amounting to $286.4 billion, which will be recorded in history as the biggest public works legislation.

Brad Larsen, federal relations manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said Minnesota will see $3.5 billion of the federal money. He said the largest share of the money will be allocated to highway projects, the transit system, safety issues and research.

Advancing research

Bob Johns, director of the Center for Transportation Studies, said the money will help faculty members who work in the institute, a division in the Center for Transportation Services, with their research.

The center’s research focuses on improving traffic operations that provide drivers with information while they drive on highways. It also looks at ways to improve the safety of cars and understand the behavior of drivers, Johns said. The research aims to reduce crashes and road fatalites, he said.

Max Donath, director of the institute, said that if the department had not received the federal money, it would not be able to do its research.

The funding helps the center educate the next generation of engineers who will have to deal with transportation problems, Donath said. He said the center hopes to help students learn more than what textbooks offer by enhancing laboratories.

Johns said the Twin Cities has one of the largest growing congestion rates in the nation. He said the research the center does will help improve the flow of traffic.

“We have proven ourselves as a high-quality program. We are a national center, aiming to aid the nation as well as Minnesota,” Johns said. “Over the next five years, we are looking forward to (advancing) this type of knowledge.”

Funding transportation projects

Although the bill is good for Minnesota, Larsen said it’s not going to solve all of the state’s transportation needs.

“There is still a $1 billion shortfall between needs and funding level,” he said. “So this will definitely help.”

Larsen said the department is very pleased and relieved that the bill has finally passed, but it’s nearly two years overdue.

The funding will enable the department to deliver the transportation program it has been planning to deliver during the next four years, Larsen said.