TTI and IBM Partner for Intelligent Transportation Solutions
In a collaboration that could lead to future transportation improvements in Texas and around the globe, leaders from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and IBM signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) during a ceremony in Austin April 1.
“This agreement is a starting point that allows us to take university-based research across the world in partnership with a highly regarded organization,” Agency Director Dennis Christiansen said at the ceremony, which was held at IBM’s Austin facilities. “We’re excited about this; the possibilities for working together are unlimited.”
Christiansen and Texas A&M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney signed the agreement alongside executives from IBM.
Known as the world’s biggest technology company, IBM employs more than 400,000 people and conducts research at eight laboratories worldwide, including its facility in Austin. IBM holds more patents than any other U.S.-based technology company.
The non-binding collaboration combines the efforts of both parties in exploring technological advancements in the area of intelligent transportation solutions. The parties will work together on data fusion and integration, accident prevention, environmental protection, travel-time reliability, traffic prediction and technologies for mobile computing.
“TTI‘s credibility in transportation research, coupled with IBM’s global reach and investment in smarter planet solutions, are an ideal combination to work collaboratively on worldwide transportation issues,” John Drewry, IBM Corporation client executive, said regarding the affiliation. “Going forward, we will be working together to proactively secure government funding to pursue joint research programs, create technology breakthroughs via TTI, IBM research and academic partners, including the incubation and piloting of promising technologies in the real world.”
IBM executives and managers from across the country attended the ceremony. TTI attendees included Ginger Goodin, manager of TTI‘s Austin Office; Associate Director Ed Seymour; and Assistant Director Christopher Poe. Texas A&M University System Vice Chancellor for Federal Relations and Commercialization Guy Diedrich was also present.
“I am excited about the future,” McKinney said at the signing ceremony. “Despite being known for our traditions, the A&M System and TTI‘s research programs are focused on the future. We are looking forward to working collaboratively and creatively with IBM researchers in supplying benefits to the people of Texas and the rest of the world.”
Christiansen Receives Prestigious ITE Honor
In its highest recognition of notable and outstanding professional achievement, the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) awarded Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) Agency Director Dennis Christiansen with honorary membership. Christiansen becomes ITE‘s 77th Honorary Member.
“Dr. Christiansen has demonstrated his leadership and dedication to the transportation profession as a former Texas District director on ITE‘s Board of Direction and as a past international president,” ITE International Vice President Robert C. Wunderlich said during the ceremony.
“Dr. Christiansen’s research findings and those of TTI continue to improve the quality of life in Texas, the United States and throughout the world,” Wunderlich, who began his career at TTI, said. “Thanks to this work, our roadways are safer, more efficient, more sustainable and better able to meet the needs of all users.”
Christiansen has extensive research experience in several areas, including traffic operations and transportation planning, and is an international expert in high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
Preventable Traffic Deaths Examined at CTS Conference
Several speakers at the 2010 Traffic Safety Conference shared the tragedy of losing a loved one with the 200 people attending the second statewide forum organized by the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI‘s) Center for Transportation Safety (CTS). The conference, with the theme “Putting the Pieces Together,” was held in Dallas March 29-31.
“One of the things that struck me in this conference is how easy it is to talk about over 35,000 lives lost [the number of U.S. traffic fatalities in 2008],” said Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. “But the number of people we had at the conference who had the personal experience of loss in their family puts a very human face on this.”
Christiansen moderated the final session of the conference, which touched upon distracted driving, motorcycle safety, changing the driving culture, wrong-way driving, red-light cameras and — the subject that seemed to dominate the discussion — drunk or impaired driving.
“My husband was killed by a wrong-way, impaired driver in 1991 about 15 miles from here,” Laura Dean-Mooney, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), told the attendees. “This is the reason I came to MADD and the reason I continue to do what I do…so other families don’t get impacted like mine was.” According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, impaired driving accounted for almost 40 percent of the total 2008 Texas fatalities.
“It’s an embarrassing thing to think we have so many fatalities related to DWI and at the same time knowing there is a remedy to this…but we are not willing to take the steps necessary to correct it,” State Sen. John Carona said during the round-table discussion about sobriety checkpoints. “This [legislation allowing Texas to conduct them] is long overdue.”
Speakers said that sobriety checkpoints could save an estimated 400 lives each year in Texas through deterrence.
“It’s quite offensive to me that the failure of state lawmakers to act prevents local communities from doing what we know works better than any other law enforcement tool in saving lives,” State Rep. Todd Smith said during the conference. Smith has repeatedly authored legislation to allow checkpoints, but the bills never make it out of committee for a vote. “We have a lot of people in this state who believe there is a right to drive while drinking. I don’t know how to explain that.”
The Traffic Safety Conference brought together traffic experts, policymakers, law enforcement and researchers with “a common interest in traffic safety but [who] bring very different approaches, skills, information and tools to solve the puzzle that is traffic safety,” Christiansen said.
The ultimate goal of the forum was to share the latest information about what is killing and injuring motorists in Texas and ways to reduce those numbers.
House Transportation Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Larry Phillips lost a college roommate in a traffic crash. “We have got to work together to change the culture of safety in Texas,” he said during the conference. “It’s a huge task. We’ve got to start sometime. How about now?”
CTS Advisory Council Meets in College Station
Advisory council members of the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI‘s) Center for Transportation Safety (CTS) were briefed on current efforts, past accomplishments and future initiatives during their all-day meeting at the Gibb Gilchrist Building Feb. 3. “You are essential to what we do,” Agency Director Dennis Christiansen told the members. “It’s important that we get your guidance and input.”
The 10 CTS Advisory Council members meet every 18 months. They represent law enforcement, public health, state and federal government, municipalities, insurance agencies, transportation engineering and education. Their expertise in various fields helps direct the center’s actions.
CTS Director John Mounce provided the members with an overview of the center including its history, current and past activities, staff and structure. “The Safety Center’s mission is to effect a reduction in travel fatalities and injuries sustained by motorists on Texas highways and serve as a focal point for research, education and collaboration to achieve that goal,” he said. “There has been a declining number of fatal traffic crashes in Texas since the inception of the Safety Center.”
Mounce told the members that the center’s current initiatives involve traffic law enforcement, vulnerable road users, distracted driving, changing the traffic safety culture and implementation of highway safety corridors.
Transportation Hall of Honor Inducts Port Pioneer
A man responsible for the development of the Texas port system has been posthumously inducted into the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor as its 31st member. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) established the Hall of Honor in 2000 as a way to recognize the state’s leaders in transportation.
The children of Frank H. Newnam, Jr., were presented the award during the 75th anniversary celebration of Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam, Inc. (LAN), a Houston-based engineering firm in which Newnam was a partner.
“The TTI Hall of Honor Board is pleased to honor Frank Newnam, who is the epitome of a Texas transportation pioneer,” said Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. “During his 28-year career at LAN, he developed the original Port of Houston master plan, master plans for other major ports in Texas and the first master plan for the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. His significant contributions have shaped multiple modes of travel throughout our state.”
Newnam was a 1931 graduate of Texas A&M University, where he was enrolled in the ROTC program. He spent 10 years with the Texas Highway Department before being called into active duty with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the China Theater.
After retiring from the Corps of Engineers in 1946, Newnam joined the engineering firm of Lockwood and Andrews and became a company partner. Through his work, Newnam streamlined and modernized the shipment of goods and services at Texas ports.
“On behalf of Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam, we are proud to accept this prestigious award from TTI honoring one of our founders,” said LAN President Dennis Petersen. “His accomplishments and leadership formed a solid foundation for the firm, which we continue to build on today. It was doubly rewarding that we could celebrate the award and LAN‘s 75th anniversary at the same event.”
Newnam’s granddaughter spoke at the ceremony. “Frank (grandpa) was a down-to-earth man — well spoken, understated, articulate and funny,” she said. “Thank you, TTI, for recognizing his talents and gifts as an engineer. He never needed awards or looked for them, but would surely have appreciated this type of recognition from the state he so dearly loved, Texas.”
Reiley Retires, Is Recognized for Service
Cathy M. Reiley, associate vice chancellor for external relations and Regents Fellow, was honored for 18 years of service to the Texas A&M Engineering Program during her retirement ceremony May 13.
In her position, she represented the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and the Texas A&M University Dwight Look College of Engineering in state and federal relations.
In addition to representing TTI in the state and federal legislative arenas and following transportation-related legislation affecting the Institute, Reiley played a key role in obtaining funding for all of TTI‘s state exceptional items. She was instrumental in the creation of the Center for Transportation Safety, Center for Ports and Waterways, Strategic Transportation Solutions Center and Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research in El Paso, Texas.
“Cathy has exemplified class and professionalism in leading the Institute’s legislative efforts, and we will sorely miss her insightful and steady guidance over many years,” said Dennis Christiansen, TTI agency director. “Her understanding of the political process, keen judgment and excellent decision making are unmatched in her profession. We owe her a great debt of gratitude for all she has done to move TTI forward.”
Reiley’s many accomplishments include securing $1 million in state matching funds for the Southwest University Transportation Center, a transportation research and education consortium with TTI as the lead institution. Other consortium partners are The University of Texas at Austin and Texas Southern University.