AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – UMass Amherst was awarded $15 million to lead transportation research among several universities.

According to a news release from UMass Amherst, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $15 million over 5 years to address transportation challenges such as safety, equitable access, and community engagement meant for several regional university transportation centers.

  • University of Connecticut
  • MIT
  • University of Maine
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Rhode Island
  • Norwich University
  • Bunker Hill
  • Holyoke Community College

“I am thrilled that the University of Massachusetts Amherst will now lead the New England Region’s University Transportation Center,” says Congressman Jim McGovern. “Billions of dollars are being invested through the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and now UMass will be at the forefront of ensuring that this money is spent wisely, justly and efficiently.”  

“The University of Massachusetts Amherst has been quite active within the UTC program since its inception, and we are excited about the society impact of the research and education developed within this new UTC,” says Michael Knodler Jr., director of the UMass Transportation Center. Knodler is associate dean for research & graduate affairs and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UMass College of Engineering. Shannon Roberts will serve as the associate director of NEUTC and is an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and co-director of the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory. 

In regard to safety, “Despite traffic safety advances, roadway fatalities in 2021 were the highest in over a decade, and up more than 10% from 2020,” Knodler says. “The traffic fatality rate per mile is significantly higher for Black and Hispanic Americans when compared to White Americans, and those of low socioeconomic status are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.”  

“The time to make a generational impact in equitable transportation safety is now,” Roberts adds. 

The New England University Transportation Center’s (NEUTC) mission is to advance equitable safety through transformative research, education and technology transfer in four thematic priority areas: 

  • Embedding equity and community engagement within transportation safety by developing and integrating best practices to improve safety through an equity lens while engaging the public in developing and disseminating safety solutions. 
  • Developing smart infrastructure and connected systems by optimizing road infrastructure to improve safety and reduce congestion through advancements in telecommunication, sensors, design, augmented reality, driver assistance systems and human-machine interactions, as well as by addressing cybersecurity risks. 
  • Improving safety for all modes of transportation (pedestrians, bicyclists, commercial vehicles, etc.) for all populations, but especially vulnerable ones such as underserved communities, disadvantaged populations and people with disabilities. 
  • Promoting automated vehicle safety by identifying, developing and evaluating new approaches that promote safety between automated vehicles and all road users.