Center for Railway Research Established at TTI
With a focus on improving railway safety and enhancing the performance of the nation’s rail system, the Texas A&M Board of Regents has approved establishing the Center for Railway Research (CRR) as a part of TTI.
“Having this center is a very positive step in our plans to increase the breadth and volume of initiatives that we pursue with our partners and sponsors in railway research. It will certainly position the university and TTI to become a more impactful leader in railway research,” says TTI Associate Research Engineer Gary Fry, who will direct the center. Fry is also an associate professor in Texas A&M’s Zachry Department of Civil Engineering.
“The Center for Railway Research will also be dedicated to education and information sharing through formal initiatives,” Fry said. As part of this, CRR will actively recruit students to enter railway transportation fields.
CRR will focus its research on the physical infrastructure associated with the rail industry, including the mechanical systems of trains, tracks and bridges. Safety and performance through innovation will be priorities for the center, which has a goal of creating longer-lasting and more efficient components and systems.
GM Executive Briefs TTI on Emissions-Free, Safe Cars
Envisioning a world with all-electric cars that don’t crash, Nady Boules, the director of General Motors’ (GM’s) Electrical and Controls Integration Lab, met with TTI employees and two Texas A&M University engineering departments Jan. 31 prior to a presentation he gave that evening at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center at the George Bush Presidential Library.
Boules told those attending his presentation — entitled General Motors Advanced Vehicle and Transportation Research — the cars of the future will be “energized by electricity and hydrogen, powered by internal motors, controlled electronically and should be connected.” Boules’ 90-minute presentation envisioned a new fleet of cars that are completely safe and have zero emissions.
Boules told his audience that the growing population, especially around major cities, is a threat to life and safety because of automobile air pollution and crashes. Boules anticipates a time when all vehicles will be equipped with a series of onboard computers that create a 360-degree sensing capability around the vehicle’s perimeter. Onboard radar systems, steering cameras and ultrasonic devices will be connected with other vehicles’ systems to improve safety and facilitate mobility.
“If we can get to cars that do not crash, we can create radically different, lower-mass, higher-efficiency vehicles. If you have a lightweight shell, energy consumption will be less,” he said.
Boules was invited to speak by TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. Both are members of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America Board of Directors. “Because of the commitment of General Motors in turning science fiction into reality, we have a sense of what our world will look like,” Christiansen said of the presentation. “This is a look forward and makes us realize the scope of the dramatic changes we are likely to see in our lifetime.”
TTI to Continue Leading Regional Center
TTI is the recipient of a $3.5 million federal grant that extends operations of the Southwest Region University Transportation Center (SWUTC) another year. The funding announcement was made in January by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
As a result of the funding, transportation programs at Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Southern University, Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans will address a wide range of vital transportation research and curriculum issues. SWUTC is one of 10 regional consortia that are part of a nationwide UTC program that includes a total of 121 universities. In all, $77 million will be awarded for this year’s program, which includes 10 regional UTCs plus 12 Tier 1 centers.
“Winning this grant award is great news for our researchers, faculty members and students,” says SWUTC Director Dock Burke, who is also a Texas A&M University System regents fellow and senior research scientist at TTI. “The one-year funding will allow us to enhance SWUTC’s education, research and technology-transfer efforts that have been so vital in solving transportation-related problems in our region and educating the professional cadre that will lead the transportation sector of the future.” Burke has been involved in SWUTC since its inception in 1988 and has been director since 1992.
Voigt, Brydia Recognized at ITS Texas Meeting
Tony Voigt, program manager for TTI’s Research and Implementation Office in Houston, Texas, was elected to a two-year term to the ITS Texas Board of Directors, and TTI Research Scientist Bob Brydia was thanked for his six years of service to the organization during its Annual Meeting in San Marcos Nov. 9–11, 2011.
Houston TranStar and the City of Houston were honored for their technology application of TTI’s travel-time monitoring system, Anonymous Wireless Address Matching. The patent-pending technology is a traffic-monitoring system consisting of Bluetooth®-enabled sensors placed along I-45 from Houston to Dallas and at 50 locations within a 62-square-mile area of West Houston. It allows TranStar to monitor the 200-mile stretch of highway, which is a major evacuation route, and a densely populated arterial network in Houston.
Brydia, who has held numerous positions on the ITS Texas board including president, says the organization’s mission is sharing knowledge on industry innovation, technologies and deployments, as well as providing education opportunities for professionals and students that will be the next generation.
TxDOT Executive Director Visits TTI
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director Phil Wilson, who was appointed to his position last October, made his first official visit to TTI on Feb. 7. He shared information about TxDOT’s priorities and heard an update on TTI and some of the research projects underway between the two agencies.
Wilson discussed three of his immediate focus areas for TxDOT: 1) improvements in project planning and forecasting, including ensuring the agency incorporates up-to-date technology in this area; 2) taking best practices and technologies to the marketplace, especially those that TTI and TxDOT work on together; and 3) effectively telling the Texas transportation story, including explaining the most misunderstood aspects of transportation and educating the public about how transportation is funded.
In addition to receiving an overview of the Institute, Wilson learned more about recent TxDOT/TTI collaborative initiatives, including the I-35 Mobility and Traveler Information System project, the Freight Shuttle System, and the Mobility Investment Priorities Study (specified in Rider 42 of the state budget).
“Rider 42 is a key priority project that is going very well,” Wilson said. “In every speech I give, I talk about it.” He also praised TTI for the agency’s leadership role in developing and implementing “innovative ideas to help TxDOT get better.”
Other TxDOT staff traveling to TTI with Wilson were John Barton, deputy executive director and chief engineer; Jerry Haddican, senior state legislative representative; Scott Haywood, chief of staff; Catherine Heil, Bryan District engineer; and Russell Zapalac, chief planning and project officer. Colin Parrish, transportation advisor in the Office of the Governor, also came to TTI with the group.
Turnbull Named National Associate
TTI Executive Associate Agency Director Katie Turnbull has been named a national associate of the National Research Council (NRC). The selection is based on her volunteer service with the Transportation Research Board (TRB).
Turnbull joins 28 others in the 2011 Class of National Associates. The program began in 2001 “to recognize extraordinary contributions made by individuals to the [NRC] through their service on committees and panels of the NRC and the Institute of Medicine without compensation.” Turnbull and others were singled out for their past service. The designation means a lifetime membership in the program.
Over her career Turnbull has served in numerous capacities in TRB activities. She served as chair of the following: HOV Systems Committee, the Policy and Organization Group, the Planning and Environment Group and the Planning, Policy, and Process Section. Turnbull is currently the chair of the Technical Activities Council. She has also assisted in planning numerous conferences and has served on project panels.
As part of the honor, Turnbull has access to the Members Center at the National Academy of Sciences Building on Constitution Avenue.
“It is an honor to be recognized for your volunteer activities, and it’s really special to be included with the very qualified individuals who make up the 2011 Class of National Associates,” she said.
Norboge to Author Eno Paper
TTI Assistant Transportation Researcher Nick Norboge was selected by the Eno board of directors to author the annual William P. Eno paper, to be presented June 8 at the 2012 Leadership Development Conference in Washington, D.C.
His economic analysis paper will focus on establishing a methodology that develops a process for determining the economic impacts associated with transportation improvements. Norboge will be awarded a $1,000 stipend.
Walden Picked for Leadership Texas
Melissa Walden, program manager for TTI’s Planning and Evaluation Group, has been selected for the 2012 class of Leadership Texas — the longest-running women’s leadership enhancement program in the nation.
Walden was chosen following a competitive application process that identifies women from all backgrounds and professions who have demonstrated leadership qualities.
“This is an exciting opportunity for me and TTI,” Walden says. “I’ve known many people who have been fortunate enough to have graduated from the program. They all come away from the year-long class inspired about ways to help tackle the numerous issues facing our state.”
As part of the program, class members interact with state and national experts and travel across Texas for five on-site visits — learning about various topics in those regions by touring major businesses, educational institutions and cultural centers. According to its website, “participants increase their understanding of the challenges and opportunities that leaders face in both the private and public sectors.”
Rail Conference Examines Safety Issues
Thanks to 180 participants from across the country, organizers with TTI say the 2011 National Highway–Rail Grade-Crossing Safety Training Conference, held in Galveston Nov. 6–9, was a success.
Held every other year, the grade-crossing safety conference examines the current issues in the highway and railroad industries, and serves as an information- sharing and education program. Among the issues discussed during breakout sessions were:
- safety and treatment enhancements at pedestrian crossings;
- shared-use corridors;
- safety plans from various states; and
- human factors safety training program development, or crew resource management training, in the railroad industry.
This year’s winner of the Hoy Richards Career Achievement Award was presented posthumously to Anya Carroll, a former civil engineer and research scientist at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. Carroll was a tireless leader in the effort to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries as a result of collisions between trains and roadway users. Carroll died in August.
New Members Join TTI Advisory Council
TTI recently welcomed four new members to its Advisory Council, a 40-member group of high-level transportation professionals from across Texas and from every sector of the transportation world. The council provides a tremendous service to the Institute by providing advice on transportation issues and trends, and supporting TTI research programs and initiatives. The new members are:
- Bill Allaway, senior advisor to the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) and president of the TTARA Research Foundation in Austin, Texas;
- Gregg Mitchell, president of Trinity Highway Products, LLC, in Dallas, Texas;
- Rene Ramirez, founder and owner of Pathfinder consulting firm, which specializes in government relations, economic development and community outreach, in McAllen, Texas; and
- Phil Wilson, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in Austin, Texas.
“TTI is extremely fortunate to have these distinguished individuals join the Institute’s advisory board,” says TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. “They each will provide unique knowledge and insight as we move forward to solve critical transportation problems to help promote continued economic development in Texas and the nation.”