Bligh, Little Join Elite A&M System Group
TTI Research Engineer Roger Bligh and Senior Research Fellow Dallas Little were honored in December with two of the highest tributes awarded by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.
Bligh was named one of only 71 Regents Fellows by the A&M System Board of Regents as a result of his “outstanding record of significant research and service to the people of Texas. His work has resulted in saving many thousands of lives on our state’s and nation’s highways.”
“I feel very privileged and humbled,” Bligh said of the designation. “This is a terrific honor, especially considering the past recipients and what they have accomplished.”
Little, who holds a joint appointment with the College of Engineering, was named a Regents Professor during the board meeting. He joins 118 other professors who hold the designation. Little was named Regents Professor for his numerous accomplishments during his 33-year career at Texas A&M.
“I am extremely fortunate to receive the honor,” Little said of the Regents Professor title, “but I fully recognize that many within the college and department are equally or more deserving than I.”
Bligh and Little were honored with other regents title recipients during a dinner attended by the regents and Chancellor Mike McKinney.
Transportation Forum Seeks Ideas, Transparency
Despite a continued bleak funding forecast for infrastructure projects in Texas and across the country, there was new optimism expressed during the Fifth Annual Texas Transportation Forum in Austin Jan. 6-8.
The Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT‘s) “state of transportation” discussion — co-sponsored by Texas Transportation Institute, the Associated General Contractors of Texas and the Texas Good Roads Transportation Association — was attended by more than 1,200 people including engineers, researchers, government agency representatives and elected officials.
TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz acknowledged the looming financial struggle (a projected $332 billion deficit over the next 20 years) but said, “We are prepared to make the most of the money that we have.” Saenz detailed TxDOT‘s plan to engage the public as it finds transparent solutions to funding shortfalls, including the development of the Interstate 35 Advisory Committee. He said the committee will be a blueprint for including community input in future transportation projects statewide.
Sen. John Cornyn was the forum’s keynote speaker.
In the effort to improve transportation for Texans without new road construction, Saenz pointed to TxDOT’s new Rail Division and the agency’s push for passenger rail services. Division Director Bill Glavin, who was hired in December, was the moderator for the conference’s session on passenger rail. “I don’t think we can build our way out of this, even if we could afford to,” Glavin said, pointing to rail as the solution to several transportation dilemmas. “The benefits are to decrease congestion, improve the quality of our air, but most importantly improve the quality of life.”
The forum focused on numerous topics: Texas’ population growth (Rep. John Carter told attendees, “When you live in paradise, people are eventually going to figure it out”), fuel taxes and potential new funding methods, road construction delays due to environmental regulations, increased expenses in oil exploration, the state’s share of Recovery Act funding, and new technologies in solving mobility problems.
Keynote speaker Sen. John Cornyn pointed to recent innovations that have helped ease congestion: off-peak road use, carpooling and managed lanes. But, “there are even more revolutionary ideas such as wireless connectivity initiatives and the Freight Shuttle being developed by the Texas Transportation Institute,” he said. “While I believe our transportation problems are serious, I think they are solvable.”
Garland’s teen drivers show significant safety improvements
Safer driving habits for teenagers in Garland, Texas, have helped to sharply reduce fatal crashes in the community, according to a recent case study by researchers from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). The announcement was made at a February 17 press conference in Garland.
The researchers attribute the improvements to a combination of two factors: the state’s graduated driver license (GDL) law — which places restrictions on drivers for the first year that they hold a license — and the Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program, which is designed to reinforce the GDL law through peer influence. The TDS program has been active in Garland’s seven high schools since 2006, whereas the program is not active in Mesquite.
“In 2006, we came together with a common purpose — to reverse the trend of teen traffic crashes in our community. And we are proud to say that we have done just that,” said Jaywin Malhi, the chair of the Garland Youth Council and a member of the Garland TDS team.
The research team reviewed both driver behavior and crash statistics in Garland and Mesquite during two periods: from 2002 through 2005, and 2006 through 2009. While both cities experienced improvements during the study period, those in Garland were more dramatic: The number of teen crash fatalities in Garland dropped from 9 to 1, while the number in Mesquite fell from 4 to 2. Also, the share of crashes involving teen drivers in Garland fell from 28 percent to 16 percent, while declining from 24 percent to 22 percent in Mesquite. In addition, Garland teens demonstrated higher seat belt use and lower cell phone use behind the wheel than their counterparts in Mesquite.
“Our research team found that a graduated driver license law can be made more effective when it is reinforced by peer-to-peer efforts like the Teens in the Driver Seat program,” TTI Director Dennis Christiansen said. “Laws provide a necessary foundation, and peer influence can make those laws work better.”
“Garland’s involvement in the Teens in the Driver Seat program is important for the safety of our youth,” Garland Mayor Ronald E. Jones said. “I am particularly pleased with the leadership demonstrated by members of the Garland Youth Council as they work with the Garland ISD high schools to spread these vital safety messages to their peers.”
Brydia Elected ITS Texas President
After more than a decade as a member of the Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS) of Texas and six years serving on its board, Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) Research Scientist Bob Brydia has been elected president of the organization.
“TTI has a long history with ITS Texas, starting with helping to form the Texas chapter in 1993,” Brydia says. “So, to be elected president by the members is a real honor.” Brydia is the fourth TTI employee to serve as the leader of the organization, which advocates the use of advanced technologies as a means to improve the safety, security and efficiency of our transportation system.
ITS Texas is a state chapter of ITS America. Membership includes representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation, cities, metropolitan planning organizations, transit agencies, and consultant and research firms, such as TTI.
In his one-year term, Brydia will be working to increase membership in ITS Texas and will encourage universities to establish student chapters of ITS Texas.
Jon Epps Appointment Approved by Board
Senior Research Fellow Jon Epps has been appointed executive associate director for the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) effective Feb. 1. The leadership appointment was approved by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents Jan. 21.
Epps, with more than 40 years of professional experience — including 32 years in academic leadership roles — will be a member of the Institute’s management team and responsible for managing the TTI Materials and Pavement Division.