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Purdue University announced that it is leading a new, $13 million center to improve transportation efficiency and safety, better coordinate intermodal commercial freight shipping to strengthen the regional economy, and upgrade the highways and infrastructure of the future.

"We are proposing nothing less than a new vision for transportation," said Charles O. Rutledge, Purdue’s vice president for research. "The underlying thrust is to find next-generation solutions."

The NEXTRANS center, awarded to Purdue by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) following a regional competition, will be based at Purdue’s Discovery Park, the university’s hub for interdisciplinary research. Two major partners include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The Ohio State University. Five other universities-Martin University in Indianapolis, University of Wisconsin in Platteville, Wayne State University, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, and the Illinois Institute of Technology-also are involved in the center, which is expected to begin operating next spring.

The center will operate with $4.3 million the first two years and $4.6 million in the final year, including $2 million from the DOT for each of the first two years and $2.25 million the third year. The remaining funding will come from matching state government and private sources.

According to Purdue, researchers will work toward applying technologies and developing strategies to alleviate congestion by pursuing short-term goals that strive to use the current infrastructure more efficiently and long-term goals of improving highways and other elements of the transportation infrastructure.

"One of the most basic elements will be to look into factors that are enabling innovation, such as information technology, wireless communications, and new types of sensors and detectors," said Robert Bernhard, associate vice president for research. "At a simple level, this means being able to constantly keep track of factors such as how fast cars are traveling, how many vehicles are moving on a given road at a given time, and what the traffic density is, and to communicate this information back and forth from the transportation infrastructure to the transportation vehicle fleet."

NEXTRANS will focus on integrating three overall areas: mobility, safety, and infrastructure renewal, with an emphasis on developing an intermodal transportation system-a system that efficiently coordinates the movement of freight and passengers using a combination of highways, rail, airports, waterways, and pipelines. The interdisciplinary center will involve researchers from civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering; management; computer science; and psychology.

The center is one of 10 university transportation centers in the nation’s 10 federal transportation regions. NEXTRANS covers the DOT’s Region Five, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Information about the center is available online at www.purdue.edu/dp/nextrans .