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Purdue Road School issues evolve with the changing transportation landscape

Purdue Road School issues evolve with the changing transportation landscape

Two e-scooter riders roll across the Purdue University campus. E-scooters are among the topics to be discussed at Purdue Road School in March. (Purdue University photo/Darcy Bullock)

West Lafayette, Ind. — Don’t let the name mislead you: Purdue Road School isn’t just about roads. Originally a conference for county surveyors and city engineers, the 105th Purdue Road School has evolved from road and street issues to an event that covers the latest in all areas of transportation, including drones, e-scooters and other issues.

“This year is no exception as many traditional topics will be addressed, such as construction, pavements and transportation structures,” said John Haddock, a civil engineering professor and director of the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). “However, Road School continues to grow and evolve with new, timely topics such as connected and autonomous vehicles and personal urban transportation being included.”

The event begins Monday (March 4) with afternoon sessions and continues until March 7 with meetings and sessions at Purdue Memorial Union and Stewart Center.

For the Purdue Road School’s Wednesday luncheon, President Mitch Daniels will conduct a fireside chat-style talk with keynote speaker Jim Hackett, president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co.

Six speakers are scheduled for Tuesday’s opening session, including Brandye Hendrickson, deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, and Joe McGuinness, Indiana Department of Transportation commissioner.

Darcy Bullock, a civil engineering professor and director of the university’s Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP), said the Purdue Road School planning committee works each year to identify the most timely topics. This year is no different.

“Modern vehicles now have sensors that can detect icy road conditions before drivers notice them,” Bullock said. “This year’s presentation on leveraging vehicle data to provide roadway condition and location of slick spots is a nice twist in our highway winter maintenance track.”

He said another session will discuss e-scooter usage trends and how agencies are responding to this new transportation mode. E-scooter users travelled over 475,000 miles in Indianapolis in just 3 months this past fall.

“Railroads continue to be an integral part of the Indiana freight transportation network.  In the past year, the state has invested over $101 million for grade separation, crossing closure and other safety enhancement projects at rail-highway intersections on local roads,” McGuinness said. “We are very pleased that one of our rail partners, Robert Martinez, Vice President for Business Development at Norfolk Southern, will be part of Tuesday’s Opening Session.”

New this year is Purdue Road School’s collaboration with The Work Truck Show held at the Indianapolis Convention Center.  Registered Road School attendees may participate in technical sessions and visit The Work Truck Show Exhibit Hall on March 7.

This year’s Road School includes more than 190 presentations involving almost 350 speakers and moderators. In addition, more than 50 exhibitors will be set up in the North and South Ballrooms of the Purdue Memorial Union on the first full day of the event.

Purdue Road School traces its origin to 1913, when W.K. Hatt, head of Purdue’s School of Civil Engineering, initiated a conference to help county surveyors and city engineers develop and maintain Indiana’s roads and streets. At the 1914 conference, a resolution was passed calling for a yearly school for county road superintendents. In 1915 the conference officially became known as Purdue Road School.

The 104th Purdue Road School Transportation Conference and Expo was the largest Road School on record at 3,010 attendees. Attendance is expected to exceed 3,000 people this year.

More information and registration is available at https://roadschool.purdue.edu.