KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee’s role as the leader in transportation safety research in the Southeast has been enhanced by a $6.225 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The grant renews UT’s funding for the Southeast Transportation Center (STC), a research consortium of 10 universities from throughout the eight-state region.
Stephen Richards, STC Director, said the center’s research focus is on moving transportation safety research to the next level.
“We’re looking at the second generation of highway safety research,” said Richards, who also heads UT’s Center for Transportation Research. “There is a shift toward innovative technologies with a goal of finding the most cost-effective way to improve safety.”
UT serves as a hub to fund educational and competitive research programs at the STC member institutions. The research budget for the STC has doubled under the new grant.
Richards noted that while previous research had centered on refining existing hardware such as guardrails and understanding behavioral issues like seat belt use, work is now focused on new approaches from in-vehicle technology to solutions that can apply across a wide variety of transportation modes.
“We’re looking now at overall, comprehensive systematic approaches to the issues,” he said.
Another priority for the STC will be taking new technology developed through the research and bringing it to commercial markets.
STC Co-Director Deanna Flinchum also pointed to a growing shortage of engineering students with a concentration on transportation as a target for the center’s work.
“Developing and implementing educational programs throughout the consortium of universities is critical,” said Flinchum. “We need to increase the quantity of graduates who will work on these types of issues.”
The renewal of the grant was especially competitive, with the Southeastern region having more proposals submitted than any other region in the country, according to Richards and Flinchum.
STC is part of a national DOT network of university-based research groups funded by the department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. UT has been a member of the Southeastern group since its inception in 1987 and led the consortium since 1995.
UT’s leadership role in transportation research is built on the university’s leadership of STC as well as the UT Center for Transportation Research and through the National Transportation Research Center, a joint program between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The NTRC is housed in an 83,000 square-foot world-class research complex located halfway between the two institutions.
Other members of the UT-led consortium include Vanderbilt University, the University of Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Jay Mayfield, (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee