Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

11-14-06

Contacts:

Tom Maze, Center for Transportation Research and Education, (515) 294-9523, tmaze@iastate.edu

David Plazak, Center for Transportation Research and Education, (515) 296-0814, dplazak@iastate.edu

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917, mkrapfl@iastate.edu

Iowa State-based transportation center to focus on safety

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University will continue to be home to a federally supported University Transportation Center.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced that a research consortium of Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa will receive a three-year, $3 million grant for a transportation research center. The grant requires the universities to come up with matching funding so the Midwest Transportation Consortium will support at least $6 million in advanced research, education and outreach activities through 2009.

Iowa State researchers, who have won federal transportation centers from 1988-1995 and 1999 to the present, will lead the consortium. The consortium will focus on improving safety management and analysis technologies to help transportation planners and engineers reduce the number of highway crashes.

"We will advance the state of the art and create new knowledge regarding transportation safety, and manage and create new transportation professionals who will promote a safety culture when they enter the workforce," says the consortium's proposal for a transportation center.

Tom Maze, the director of the consortium and an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, said the transportation center will focus on the strengths of the three universities. Iowa State will provide expertise in crash analysis tools and techniques, the University of Iowa will provide expertise in the human factors of transportation safety and the University of Northern Iowa will provide expertise in geographic and spatial data.

The consortium's goal is to use that expertise to change how departments of transportation plan road projects and manage existing roadways. Maze said departments do a fine job making plans based on forecasts of traffic congestion and the expected future condition of roads and bridges. But they have more difficulty factoring safety into project management and development decisions.

"It's not that they're not looking at safety," Maze said. "It's that there aren't any tools."

The consortium plans to develop safety management systems that forecast safety performance as traffic volumes grow and road conditions and capacities change over time, according to the consortium's proposal.

Those systems could change how roads are built, how intersections are constructed, how land is developed along roadways and they could reduce how many mistakes drivers make, said David Plazak, the consortium's education coordinator and an Iowa State adjunct assistant professor of community and regional planning.

And that could mean a lot for Iowa and the United States.

"Improving transportation safety is a vexing and important challenge," says the consortium's proposal. "Traffic crashes result in an economic loss of more than $230 billion nationally per year. Reducing risks in transportation translates to fewer fatalities and life-changing injuries and less lost productivity."

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Quick look

Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa are working together to establish a transportation center supported by $3 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The center will support research aimed at developing tools so departments of transportation can consider safety when planning and managing roadways.

Quote

"It's not that they're not looking at safety. It's that there aren't any tools."

Tom Maze, the director of the Midwest Transportation Consortium and an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering