WMU to start transportation research center with federal grant

Finding ways to improve transportation to help create liveable communities will be the research goal of a team at Western Michigan University.

The group of civil and construction engineers have received a $1.4 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to create the Transportation Research Center for Livable Communities, one of 33 transportation research centers at colleges across the country.

The center will focus on improving public transit systems and alternative transportation modes, providing better and safer pedestrian and bicycle networks and enhancing transportation accessibility for children, people with disabilities, older adults and lower income populations. The research will promote the safe, efficient and environmentally sound movement of goods and people, all direct priorities of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The grant, which is awarded through the transportation department's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, is for year one with the possibility of renewal for three additional years. The WMU grant is part of about $63 million in awards to advance research and education programs that address the nation's critical transportation challenges.

WMU was successful in securing the funding because of the expertise the university built over the years at WMU and relationships it has with its partner institutions, says Dr. Jun-Seok Oh, professor of civil and construction engineering. Partner institutions include Tennessee State University, the University of Texas, Arlington, Utah State University and Wayne State University.

The focus of the center will be to shift the understanding of transportation systems from that of a public service to one that deals with the quality of lives; provides benefits of technological advances to individuals' daily travel; promotes active transportation for healthier and safer communities; enhances transportation infrastructure and systems for individuals with disabilities; minimizes negative impacts of transportation; and improves public perceptions of livability.

"Related research will include planning, design, maintenance and technologies for public transit and non-motorized transportation," says Dr. Osama Abudayyeh, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering and associate dean of the College of Engineering. "We will utilize technological advances in transportation to develop the livable community concept. We are confident that our multidisciplinary team will make this endeavor possible."

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Mark Schwerin, Western Michigan University