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Transportation center earns $15 million federal research grant, national designation
Author: Justin Carinci
Posted: December 5, 2016

Portland State University has secured a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for transportation research, education and outreach. Portland State’s Transportation Research and Education Center, TREC, will administer the grant, which is expected to total $15.6 million.

The grant names TREC's National Institute for Transportation and Communities program, or NITC, as one of five national university transportation centers. TREC will expand the NITC program and add new partners University of Arizona and University of Texas at Arlington. Existing partners University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology and University of Utah remain partners in the Portland State-led program.

The NITC program will focus on four research areas: increasing access to opportunities; improving multi-modal planning and shared use of infrastructure; advancing innovation and smart cities; and developing data, models and tools. Among the 11 projects funded in the first year of the grant are:

  • A smart platform for connected vehicle infrastructure and signal control;
  • A multidisciplinary look at how the concept of walkability has left out disadvantaged neighborhoods and how to address those gaps;
  • Two innovative efforts to help transit connect people with jobs and opportunities;
  • An examination of the economic and business effects of converting infrastructure for nonmotorized transportation;
  • A study to inform proactive traffic management during major disruptive events.

TREC Director Jennifer Dill said the grant affirms the NITC program’s contributions to improving transportation nationwide. “Since our center’s founding in 2006, we’ve provided the research and insight to help transportation agencies serve all users,” Dill said. “We’re honored to continue leading this charge for the next five years.”

The latest grant means TREC has brought Portland State $48 million from a single federal program in the last 10 years. The requirement that each federal dollar be matched from a nonfederal partner has multiplied the effect of that investment, creating fruitful partnerships with more than 100 agencies and organizations nationally, including the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Metro, TriMet and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“This grant recognizes that Portland State research has shifted the national conversation around transportation,” said Portland State President Wim Wiewel. “It used to center on moving as many cars as quickly as possible. Now we ask how transportation can give people access to opportunities and best serve our communities.”

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said Portland State is a natural choice to host a national transportation center. “With Portland on the front lines of the transportation technology and mobility changes that are redefining livability, there is no better place than Portland State University.

“Portland State’s international reputation for ground-breaking research on multimodal transportation, strong community partnerships, and urban sustainability will ensure that the national center will continue to be successful in Portland.”

Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act competition, U.S. DOT received 212 applications for 35 grants creating five national centers, 10 regional centers and 20 lower-level centers. National centers must obtain matching funds equal to the $15.6 million grant amount, distributed over federal fiscal years 2016 through 2020.

About TREC
TREC, the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State, houses the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (the U.S. Department of Transportation’s national center for livable communities), the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation and the transportation data archive Portal. TREC supports transportation decision-making through primary research and educates current and future transportation professionals.

About University Transportation Centers
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers program funds transportation centers of excellence housed at 35 universities, including five national centers, to advance research, education, workforce development and technology transfer.