Researchers Receive $1.4 Million from U.S. Department of Transportation

Research focuses on transportation systems on navigable waterways

 Transportation researchers at the University of Arkansas will receive $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to create the Maritime Transportation Research and Education Center.

The funds, announced Tuesday by U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman and Rep. Steve Womack — all of Arkansas — will augment transportation research at the university and will address the Transportation Department’s strategic goal of economic competiveness through efficient, resilient and sustainable transportation systems on U.S. navigable waterways.

 The center, also called MarTREC, will function as a consortium of researchers at the University of Arkansas – the grantee institution – Jackson State University, Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans, all of which have proximity to navigable waterways along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast.

The $1.4 million grant will be matched by $750,000 from a combination of sources, including each of the four institutions, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and in-kind and cash support from private industry, said Heather Nachtmann, professor of industrial engineering and principal investigator for the grant.

“Our vision is to be recognized as the nation’s premier source for expertise on maritime and multimodal transportation research and education,” said Nachtmann, who will serve as the center’s director. “The consortium was formed based on nationally-renowned expertise at these institutions. Being strategically located along major navigable rivers and coastal areas, we have supported the MarTREC theme of economic competitiveness, and we are dedicated to practical research that will transfer to workforce development.”

Nachtmann said the research program will focus on specific problems within three general categories – maritime and multimodal logistics management, construction of resilient and sustainable multimodal infrastructure, and the creation and promotion of livable coastal and river-valley communities with effective emergency management systems. Multimodal transportation systems include trucking, air, rail and barge.

Focusing on logistics, the researchers will design sustainable multimodal supply chain networks to optimize resource allocation and minimize congestion. Nachtmann said these networks seek to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation logistics by focusing attention on shipping cycles, reliability, safety and environmental impact. Other studies will provide reliable and accurate information about the economic impact of the nation’s intra-coastal waterway transportation systems under both normal and disruptive conditions.

Researchers will develop improved materials to enhance the resilience and longevity of transportation infrastructure. Part of this effort will include developing technology to monitor the structural health and safety of critical facilities and structures.

Other researchers will develop tools to evaluate the social, economic and environmental consequences of these transportation systems on river-valley and coastal communities. They will plan for enhanced social equity, mobility and accessibility by integrating smart growth concepts. Finally, the researchers will investigate the use of these transportation systems to facilitate the movement of large groups of people during emergency evacuations.

The overall program will include workforce development and maritime and multimodal job training, Nachtmann said. The program will also promote transportation workforce diversity through outreach programs in public schools.

Full Newswire Article here.

Release date: 9/26/2013