UNL gets $6.2 million grant for regional university transportation center

Released on 08/24/2006, at 12:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., August 24th, 2006 —

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been awarded a $6.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration designating UNL's Mid-America Transportation Center as a regional University Transportation Center.

"For five years we have had a vision of winning this regional university transportation center and now our day has come," said Prem Paul, UNL vice chancellor for research. "This is an important grant because this center will put us in the driver's seat as the leader in transportation research and education in this region and it will put our faculty, our university and our state at the table where national transportation priorities are set."

The Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) is a consortium with UNL as the lead institution with regional partners Kansas State University, University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Rolla and Lincoln University of Missouri. The Nebraska Department of Roads and the Kansas and Missouri Departments of Transportation also are key partners. Laurence Rilett, Keith W. Klaasmeyer Chair in Engineering and Technology in the civil engineering department at UNL, is the center director.

"The Nebraska Department of Roads welcomes this regional coalition of universities, government entities and industry," said John Craig, state roads department director. "The center will help us address challenges that are unique to our region and we are confident this partnership will ultimately make our transportation system more efficient and safer."

Nebraska has always been a transportation hub -- from the days of the Pony Express and Oregon Trail through the building of the first transcontinental railway, which began at Omaha. Today, Interstate 80 and the nation's two largest railways carry the nation's freight across the state, while the Missouri River is gaining importance as a transportation route.

"Nebraska is becoming a major transportation and logistics hub because of our strategic location and this is an important driver of economic growth of the state," said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman. "MATC, together with the Nebraska Transportation Center that we established in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Roads this year, will contribute directly to this sector of our economy through research that improves our roads and increases safety and by educating and training the next generation of transportation professionals."

Although the United States arguably has the world's best transportation system, it faces numerous challenges, including large increases in freight movements by all modes of transportation, Rilett said.

"This is particularly true in the Midwest, which is literally at the crossroads of the nation's transportation system," he said.

The UNL-based regional center's theme is "improving safety and minimizing risk associated with increasing multi-modal freight movement on the U.S. surface transportation system," which fits well with MATC's expertise. MATC will focus on safety research related to rural transportation. Key safety research areas include traffic control, animal crashes, safer at-grade railway crossings and work zones and the development of more effective and economical roadside crash barriers.

"MATC researchers will develop new methods of improving the safety and efficiency of our highway, railway and inland waterway transportation systems in response to these new demands," Rilett said.

The university transportation centers program supports transportation research, education and technology transfer that promote scientific innovations in a variety of transportation modes and disciplines, according to U.S. Department of Transportation information.

MATC is the Region 7 center, serving Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. It is one of 10 regional university transportation centers in the nation. Other universities designated as regional centers in the competition included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, the University of California and Pennsylvania State University.

CONTACTS: Larry Rilett, Keith W. Klaasmeyer Chair in Engineering and Technology, (402) 472-1992;
Prem S. Paul, Vice Chancellor, Research, (402) 472-3123