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UA launches new interdisciplinary Transportation Research Institute

Vehicles+commute+west+on+Broadway+on+Monday%2C+June+6.+
Sydney Richardson
Vehicles commute west on Broadway on Monday, June 6.

The UA recently announced the creation of the Arizona Transportation Research Institute, a campus wide collaboration that will dive into creating solutions for modern transportation issues in Arizona.

Larry Head, interim director of the institute and professor of systems and industrial engineering, said he hopes the institute improves certain transportation issues such as traffic congestion, transportation safety and vehicle pollution.

“We’ve been researching advanced technology in transportation through the college of engineering for a long time, but as we looked around campus, we see lots of other people doing research related to transportation,” Head said. “Transportation issues affect everybody in their everyday lives.”

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Equipped with faculty from different departments and colleges across campus, AzTRI hopes to use the interdisciplinary expertise to address these challenges.

According to Head, the majority of AzTRI’s funding will come from sponsored research projects that different faculty members will submit proposals for.

“We submitted some proposals to the University Transportation Centers, so we hope to get a lot of the funding through that program,” Head said. “A little bit of the startup funding has come from the senior vice president of research office.”

Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president of research at the UA, said Arizona is the sixth largest state in the United States, and with that comes a lot of ground to cover.

“We are the corridor between many of the things that are manufactured in Mexico, then distributed all across the country and then passed into the world,” Espy said, “So transportation is a huge part of Arizona’s commerce and the fabric of how we do business.”

With major interstates and the U.S.-Mexico border, Arizona sees a lot of movement.

“In two-way traffic, more than 46 million people, 17 million cars and 760,000 trucks crossed the Arizona-Mexico border in 2015,” according to Arizona Town Hall.

Sally Stevens, professor of gender and women’s studies, said she’s excited that the UA has a new research institute that will be helpful and informative.

“Having a workforce that is more equitable will probably produce better solutions to the problems that we are seeing in Arizona,” Stevens said.

Stevens said her primary focus is to add a gender lens to the Institute and look at how women can contribute.

“There are many aspects of the AzTRI that are more technical and will contribute to looking at actual transportation mechanisms, inventions and ways of solving problems,” she said.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there was a total of 116,609 car crashes in 2015, 811 of which were fatal accidents. They also saw a 6.33 percent increase in accidents from 2014 to 2015.

RELATED: Suspect in hit-and-run collision near UA campus has been found

“My greatest hope for the Institute is that agencies like the City of Tucson, Pima Association of Governments and Arizona Department of Transportation come to the university when there is a challenge or problem and view us as a tremendous asset to help them solve that problem,” Head said. “We want everyone in the state of Arizona and the nation to look at us and our expertise.”


Follow Angela Martinez on Twitter.


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