It all began with one researcher in a donated cubicle. But ten years later—thanks to innovative research, recognition from colleagues across the country, and an increasing number of local projects—TTI’s Research and Implementation Office in El Paso and its Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research (CIITR) has become one of the most vital research centers in the Institute.
“We had a grand opening in April of 2006 after then-State Senator Eliot Shapleigh secured funding for the center,” says Associate Research Scientist Jeff Shelton, who manages the El Paso Office. “Since that time, we’ve outgrown two office spaces and now employ 10 researchers and support staff, and we’ve hired numerous transportation research students from The University of Texas-El Paso and New Mexico State University.”
Senator Shapleigh proposed the creation of CIITR following 9/11 to focus on the safe and secure movement of people and goods across the Texas/Mexico border. CIITR has become well known for its projects to alleviate traffic congestion at the border, air quality studies and regional efforts to improve mobility.
“At first, we had few expectations,” reveals CIITR Director Rafael Aldrete. “Funding was not a certainty, so we sought out new projects and tried to grow. And we did, thanks to a lot of factors, but especially with the help of word of mouth.”
Aldrete says that, from a geographic standpoint—and because El Paso borders Mexico—many felt that this was a perfect location for many different kinds of transportation research projects.
The El Paso Office now has a wide range of federal, state and local sponsors. For example, it’s currently working on a project with the U.S. Department of Energy called the Connected Traveler, which uses technology to incentivize energy-saving ways to travel.
In another local project, TTI researchers recently created a brand new methodology to assist El Paso’s Metropolitan Planning Organization in developing a multimodal plan for the region. The plan is designed to decrease congestion and pollution by encouraging alternate modes of travel. Other transportation researchers have turned to TTI to learn about this innovative modeling techniques devised by the El Paso Office.
“Based on the type of research we have done over the last ten years, I expect CIITR to be more involved in transportation research on an international level over the next ten years,” Aldrete says.
And because connected and automated vehicles seem to be a certainty, “I expect that we will be doing a lot more work in this area as well,” Shelton adds. “The future of the El Paso Office looks bright.”