Cornell awarded $7M to lead transportation research center

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John Carberry

Cornell University will receive up to $7 million in U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funding over five years to lead a consortium of universities in researching and developing new transportation innovations to limit adverse impacts on public health and the environment.

The announcement was made Dec. 8 by U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both D-N.Y. They announced $1.4 million in funding for the current fiscal year; subsequent funding for 2017 through 2020 will be made annually, subject to availability of funds and grantee compliance with terms and conditions.

Allocated through the DOT’s University Transportation Center (UTC) program, the funding will be used to establish the Center for Transportation, Environment and Community Health (CTECH) and is one of 35 five-year grants to university consortia across the U.S. under the UTC program.

The Cornell-led consortium – to be headquartered at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) – will include the University of California, Davis, the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of South Florida.

Principal investigator for CTECH is Oliver Gao, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“CTECH will advance transportation sustainability in its broader human and environmental contexts,” Gao said. “Transportation that sacrifices environmental quality and public health is simply untenable. Successful solutions call for innovative cross-disciplinary research and education, and integrated technologies and approaches.”

Other members of the Cornell team, all from CEE, are Ricardo Daziano, the David Croll Fellow Associate Professor; Linda Nozick, professor and director of CEE; and Samitha Samaranayake, assistant professor.

“Research done at CTECH will support development and knowledge transfer of a health-improving mobility approach to sustainable multimodal transportation analysis and tools,” Daziano said. “An essential avenue of research is the analysis of human decision-making in the context of cleaner vehicles and fuel technologies, adoption of active transportation, and diffusion of more sustainable transportation business models.”

“I think it’s really great for Cornell and for our students,” Nozick said. “The proposal focuses on the connection between transportation, infrastructure, the environment and health care outcomes. That’s been a focus of education here for at least 10 years, starting with the hiring of Oliver Gao, and this center is a follow-up on that activity.”

Schumer and Gillibrand said that the five-year grant will give Cornell’s world-class researchers the opportunity to meet national challenges related to transportation systems, the environment and public health.

“Finding the innovative solutions that address our nation’s need for environmentally sound transportation infrastructure is key to our economic success,” Schumer said in a press release. “This grant will enable Cornell University and its new transportation center to produce game-changing research on the technology that could preserve our environment and protect our communities from harmful pollutants.”

CTECH will pursue innovative research to support sustainable mobility of people and goods while preserving the environment and improving community health. It will leverage behavioral and economic sciences, information technology, and environmental and transportation sciences and technologies to address critical issues related to preserving the environment.

Through multilevel, multidisciplinary and institutional collaborations, CTECH will advance transportation sustainability in its broader human and environmental contexts.

“Cornell University is one of the most innovative institutions in the country and an ideal place for this federal investment,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “These funds will allow Cornell to be the hub of the new transportation center and lead vital research to upgrade our transportation systems while preserving the environment and protecting the health of the community.”

The UTC program, in place since 1987, advances state-of-the-art transportation research and technology, and develops the next generation of transportation professionals. It helps address the nation’s ever-growing need for the safe, efficient and environmentally sound movement of people and goods.


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