Howard University’s Transportation Research Center (UTRC) in Washington DC has been awarded a US$3.75m grant by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to help improve traffic conditions in the District of Columbia.
During the five-year program, HUTRC researchers will provide traffic studies, traffic safety improvements, and crash data analysis for the District part of the city’s Vision Zero Initiative. Stephen Arhin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering within the University’s College of Engineering and Architecture (CEA), will oversee the project as director of the HUTRC. Arhin will oversee the center’s efforts to obtain, manage and analyze traffic crash data for DDOT, in addition to conducting research on DDOT’s Connected Vehicles Initiative, which uses research to explore emerging methods of enabling drivers to communicate with other drivers and vehicles, along with roadside infrastructure and cloud technology. The program will study whether connected vehicles can be used not only to improve vehicle safety, but to improve vehicle efficiency and commute times.
The HUTRC was founded in 1998 as a standing research resource, assisting a variety of partners in fulfilling missions to develop sustainable travel practices, improve transportation safety, and protect environmental resources in the District of Columbia. As part of the DDOT research program, the center also plans to conduct traffic calming and safety studies within the DC area, in addition to developing strategies to improve the flow of several modes of local traffic.
The CEA will benefit, overall, from the award, by enhancing the student research experience through the use of data taken during the HUTRC study. The outcome of studies and research conducted under the award will be incorporated into classes, seminars and workshops, with the goal of exposing students to real-world engineering problems.
“This multi-year award presents an opportunity for our Transportation Research Center to continue its work of supporting DDOT to improve safety in the city and implement safety programs based on traditional engineering practices, innovation, and data analytics,” Arhin explained. “This presents an opportunity for students to be engaged in solving real-world problems through data collection and analysis, field observations, and systems integration.”
Bruce Jones, Howard University’s vice president of research, commented, “According to the Council of State Governments (2017), the US Department of Transportation reported that over US$926bn will be needed in transit-related infrastructure initiatives around the country. The grant award from the DDOT allows the university to play an integral role in informing the allocation of these resources with research-backed best practices in Washington DC for metropolitan areas across the USA. In this respect, this grant fits squarely with Howard’s long-standing mission to provide state-of-the-art research that informs policy and practice with a chief goal to improve the quality of life of our citizenry.”
Achille Messac, dean of the CEA, added, “Dr Arhin’s traffic research helps us envision a future where vehicles and drivers communicate and interact on the road well beyond the visual means of today. This behind-the-scenes communication promotes traffic safety and manageability in ways that would not be possible using today’s technology.”