Lomax Moderates Panel at Houston LINK Forum
As part of the 17th annual Leadership, Involvement, Networking, Knowledge (LINK) Program held May 15–18, a delegation of 110 metropolitan Atlanta leaders traveled to Houston to hear about metropolitan challenges and solutions experienced in that city. This year’s agenda focused on Houston’s economic development, transportation system, and the shipping and logistics industry.
TTI Senior Research Engineer and Regents Fellow Tim Lomax moderated a panel focusing on transportation solutions. “One of the key questions I had for the panel was what makes Houston transportation agencies work so well together,” says Lomax. “Atlanta should be given credit for having this program. I don’t know of any other region that does this.”
TTI Co-sponsors Global Symposium on Connected Vehicles
The first annual Global Symposium on Connected Vehicles and Infrastructure took place in Ann Arbor, Mich., May 14–16. Hosted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), the symposium — co-sponsored by TTI and ITS America — was attended by 200 people from around the world. Guests included U.S. Department of Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood, who spoke at the opening session.
Most experts agree that cars will communicate with each other and the roadside infrastructure in the next few years. Driverless cars, already operational on a trial basis, may be available in the next two decades. As a result of the coming transportation revolution, it’s believed that safety will increase, congestion will lessen, and air quality will improve.
“TTI should leverage its infrastructure expertise because no one is emphasizing that side of the equation,” says John Maddox, who helped organize the symposium. Maddox, UMTRI’s director of collaborative program strategies and a joint employee of TTI, pursues teaming opportunities for UMTRI and TTI. “I foresee a time when TTI could become the go-to place for vehicle-to-infrastructure research involving safety and mobility communications applications.”
During the symposium, Ginger Goodin, TTI research engineer and director of TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Initiative, examined the infrastructure perspective from a policy standpoint. “I agree that there is a transformational change under way, and we are poised to do work in this area,” she said.
Briaud Gives Prestigious Osterberg Memorial Lecture
Protecting U.S. embassies against terrorist attacks was the subject of this year’s Osterberg Memorial Lecture presented July 11 by Jean-Louis Briaud. Manager of TTI’s Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Program, Briaud also holds the Spencer J. Buchanan Chair in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University.
Known worldwide for his engineering expertise, Briaud presented “Impact Tests to Protect Embassies against Terrorist Attacks” to the Deep Foundation Institute’s (DFI’s) Annual Congress in Columbus, Ohio. His research examines how deep-ground bollards, or posts, should be placed to stop a 7-ton truck going 50 miles per hour. The annual Osterberg Memorial Lecture is named after Dr. Jorj O. Osterberg, a pioneer in the field of geotechnical engineering. Calling Osterberg a giant in that field, Briaud, who “had the distinct pleasure of meeting him in 2001,” says he was honored to give this year’s memorial lecture.
TTI Welcomes PVAMU’s Summer Transportation Institute Students
TTI hosted a visit June 25 by 20 scholarship recipients of Prairie View A&M University’s (PVAMU’s) Summer Transportation Institute (STI). The tour included a full-scale crash test, a hands-on demonstration of TTI’s driving simulator, and a visit to the Institute’s Sediment Erosion Control Laboratory. PVAMU chooses its STI participants from 80 secondary-school applicants based on their grade-point averages and demonstrated interest in the field of engineering. Each year, TTI shows visiting students what life as a transportation engineer or planner might be like.
“I was interested in science and engineering, and that’s why I applied to the STI program,” Aldine High School student Robert Hall said. “But, actually making it a career was just a thought. Now, I know, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
TTI Safety Pioneer Gene Buth Retires
After a 50-year career with TTI, Assistant Agency Director Gene Buth retired May 31. As attendees at his retirement reception discovered, Buth played a pioneering role in our nation’s evolving roadside safety efforts.
His projects involved breakaway signs, light poles, crash cushions and bridge railings, all of which have increased roadside safety across the nation over the last half century. Buth’s research eventually led to the design of special guardrails, including the landmark ET family of guardrail treatments designed to absorb the impact of crashes and minimize injuries associated with vehicles leaving the roadway.
The president of Trinity Highway Products, LLC, the company that licenses TTI’s roadside safety products, spoke at the retirement reception. “Just to give you an idea of the safety impact of his work, we have installed 549,000 units globally,” Greg Mitchell said. “We are very proud of the partnership with TTI and especially with Dr. Buth.”
TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen noted that Buth “has been a phenomenal manager of the operation at Riverside. From my perspective, he’s been a solid part of the TTI management team…forever. All I can say in closing is, Gene, you are one of the best, and thanks for all you have done.”
Safety Conference Draws upon Multiple Perspectives
The 2013 Traffic Safety Conference was held June 3–5 in Fort Worth, Texas. Titled Different Paths, One Destination, the conference hosted by TTI discussed how connected-vehicle technologies can help improve safety by eliminating a majority of car crashes in the future.
“Traffic safety is a complex and multifaceted problem, and we all have a different perspective on it,” said Robert Wunderlich, director of TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety, at the opening session. His audience included representatives from law enforcement, traffic safety research, education and numerous other groups. “What we want to do here is bring those perspectives together in a single forum to create the relationships we need to solve that problem.”
The conference also examined safety issues associated with the oil boom, especially on rural roads built decades ago before today’s heavier traffic volume. Numerous breakout sessions examined topics including driver education, child passenger safety, traffic incident management and new research on distracted driving. Speakers discussed how new connected-vehicle technologies could impact the way attendees do their jobs in the near future.