$3.5 million grant supports transportation center
A recent $3.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant enables UNL to continue hosting the Mid-America Transportation Center, a four-state regional center researching various aspects of transportation safety.
Since 2006, UNL has hosted MATC for transportation research in collaboration with universities and state transportation agencies in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. The $3.5 million grant means UNL will continue hosting the center for at least the next year.
"This announcement is good news for America's truckers, rail operators and highway users because UNL is a leader in researching how to make our roads and railways safer," said U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, who announced the grant award Jan. 12. "UNL has done notable research in areas of transportation safety over the years, including design and development of roadside and racetrack safety technologies credited with preventing thousands of deaths and earning UNL Professor Dean Sicking the 2005 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, which is the highest honor for technological achievement. This grant announcement continues UNL's successes."
The UNL center has overseen research on issues such as the use of high-performance concrete, truck safety improvements at railroad crossings, the effects of driver education on truck drivers' stress, snow de-icing chemicals, speed limits, a variety of construction materials for roads and railways and a life cycle assessment of Nebraska bridges.
"Transportation is a major industry in Nebraska, which makes the university transportation center's work especially important to our state and nation," said Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development. "We are leveraging the center's research to support our economy. This is research that touches people's lives and our economy."
Paul said Nelson's support has been key in helping secure funding that has allowed UNL to host and support the transportation center's research efforts.
Larry Rilett, MATC director and the Keith W. Klaasmeyer Chair in Engineering and Technology, said the grant's greatest benefit is that it will allow the university to increase the number of students and faculty involved in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs of the center's consortium members.
"The end result will be a safer and more efficient transportation system in Nebraska and throughout the states of Region 7," Rilett said. "This award acknowledges the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a national leader in transportation research, education and technology transfer.
"It would not have been possible without the significant support of the Region 7 state departments of transportation, including the Nebraska Department of Roads, and our private sector partners from the trucking, railway and logistics industries."
Partner institutions are Kansas State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, Prairie View A&M University and Lincoln University. Through 2011, 72 faculty partners and 197 funded students – 143 graduates and 54 undergraduates – representing 32 laboratories and research groups from 18 disciplines, have participated in MATC programs.
More than 150 projects are being studied or have been completed by MATC. A new outreach pilot program of an innovative transportation engineering after-school club for middle school students in Lincoln engages students in science, technology, engineering and math learning. "Roads, Rails and Race Cars" is being offered through Lincoln Public Schools.
"As the state's only engineering college, we're engaged not only in educating the next generations of engineering leaders but providing research that positively impacts all of our lives," said Tim Wei, dean of the UNL College of Engineering. "This award allows our faculty, students and researchers to continue to lead the way in transportation safety and innovations."
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