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Center for Transportation Studies

U of M to lead $10.4 million regional consortium on transportation safety

Researcher in Driving Environment Simulator (DES)In a national competition held by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies (CTS) has been selected to lead a new $10.4 million regional University Transportation Center (UTC) consortium focused on improving transportation safety.

The new Roadway Safety Institute will be a regional focal point for transportation safety research, education, and technology transfer initiatives. The region includes Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The two-year consortium will focus its research on regional issues related to high-risk road users and systematic safety improvements. Within these areas, the consortium will address multiple modes of transportation across a variety of topic areas, including roadway departures, urban and rural intersections, pedestrians and bicyclists, and commercial vehicle drivers. The consortium will also explore transportation safety engagement in the region’s Native American communities.

“More single-vehicle fatal crashes occur on reservations than in the country as a whole,” says U.S. Sen. Al Franken. “This statistic serves as a stark reminder that we need to support transportation research to improve road safety, particularly in our tribal communities. As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I was proud to support CTS in their grant request and I applaud their efforts.”

The CTS-led consortium was one of 33 federal grant recipients selected out of 142 applicants. Other consortium members in CTS’s winning proposal are the University of Akron, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and Western Michigan University.

“The new consortium will allow us to bring together the diverse strengths and expertise of our members to work toward the shared goal of improving safety,” says Laurie McGinnis, director of CTS and chair of the new regional center’s Advisory Board. “Together, we can do much more to save lives on our roads than we could do alone.”

Max Donath, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota and an internationally recognized leader in transportation safety research, will serve as the director of the new Region 5 center.

“This award will allow us to bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the region to improve safety for broad groups of travelers,” Donath says. “We’ve made great strides in transportation safety in the past 20 years, but that’s not enough for the families and friends of the 4,500 people who died on our region’s roads in 2011. We need to determine and deliver the next wave of transportation safety improvements.”

“Improving our road safety system is critical to preventing crashes,” says U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “This support will go a long way to help CTS advance safety improvements to help make our roads safer and save lives.”

The center will receive $5.2 million from the USDOT and $5.2 million in matching funds from member universities, state departments of transportation, and other regional, state, and local partners.

“This is great news for the University, our regional partners, and ultimately our national transportation infrastructure. The award demonstrates that through collaboration, great innovation can come,” says Brian Herman, Vice President for Research at the U of M. “This consortium has the most comprehensive university-based transportation research facilities in the region, as well as a diverse group of faculty and research staff experienced in implementing safety solutions. I am pleased for the recognition of the University of Minnesota and the longtime leadership of CTS in the area of transportation safety.”