Beyond Traffic Innovation Center (BTIC)

SPONSOR:  US DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (USDOT)

PI:  Pasi Lautala

The close partnerships between diverse entities on MTU’s campus allow Michigan Tech to serve the transportation field across many areas. Innovations and research conducted under entities such as the Michigan Tech Research Institute, Advanced Power Systems Research Center, and numerous laboratories can be integrated into our academic programs by departments, but also disseminated to practitioners and public stakeholders through our Center for Technology and Training (CTT), Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) and Center for Science and Environmental Outreach (CSEO).

Michigan Tech has a strong and versatile academic program in transportation. Our Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers BS, MS, and PhD concentrations in transportation. In addition, we house one of the few Rail Transportation Programs in the nation and perhaps the only Minor in Rail Transportation available today. There also are certificate programs in Hybrid Electric Drive Vehicle Engineering, Advanced Electric Power Engineering and a graduate certificate in Automotive Systems, plus numerous opportunities for undergraduate and graduate level transportation research in various disciplines. These include our innovative Enterprise Programs for undergraduate research in areas, such as alternative energy, hybrid electric vehicles and wireless communications.

In addition to our academic programs, we offer professional training and outreach in transportation topics through a variety of centers. CTT is a transportation training and outreach center focusing on practitioner training, technical assistance, and best practices that enhance business and technical practices for state and local agencies. Their training typically reaches 5,000 participants annually with over 24,000 contact hours. TTAP offers similar services to American Indian governments and communities in the 31 states bordering and east of the Mississippi River (Federal Lands Eastern Region), reaching 1,100 annual participants and 4,200 contact hours. Finally, the Michigan Tech Mobile Lab is a fully outfitted mobile laboratory that partners with government, industry, and nonprofit organizations to deliver HEV (hybrid-electric vehicle) education, outreach, and research across the nation.

Michigan Tech has been instrumental in organizing regional and national conferences and workshops, such as the annual Michigan Rail Conference founded by Michigan Tech in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the National Tribal Transportation Conference. Michigan Tech also collaborated in a workshop funded by FHWA with participants from state DOTs like Caltrans, city government, European representatives, and industry to “Address Infrastructure Life Cycle Inventory Data Needs: Supporting Sustainable Decision-Making for Civil Infrastructure Using EPDs.” Dr. John Harvey from the University of California Pavement Research Consortium (UCPRC) was a close collaborator on the effort. In 2016, we also initiated the Exploring Next Generation IN-vehicle INterfaces Consortium (ENGIN) and related speaker series.

Michigan Tech educates and encourages K-12 students to advance in the transportation field through several youth events and summer programs. These include the National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI), Rail and Intermodal Summer Youth Program (SYP), Women in Automotive Engineering, and Human Factors Engineering programs. We also host the annual Clean Snowmobile Challenge at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center.

Michigan Tech is engaged in national and regional decision making through participation in and leadership of committees. Some examples include the Chairmanship of the TRB AR040 Freight Rail Committee and involvement in AASHTO Subcommittee on Materials and FHWA Sustainable Pavements Technical Working Group. Michigan Tech is also represented in the seven-member State of Michigan Commission for Supply Chain and Logistics Collaboration, and our faculty/staff has obtained national and regional awards, such as the Wootan Award received by Timothy Colling and the 2015 WisDOT Tribal Excellence Award from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation received by John Velat.

While not located in one of the 11 megaregions identified in the Beyond Traffic 2045, our location in rural Michigan makes us ideal in addressing trends and challenges faced by rural transportation, and we have worked closely with Michigan Department of Transportation and local governments in these issues. However, Michigan Tech’s leadership is not restricted to rural aspects. Many of our activities have broader impacts, such as the RoadSoft asset management software developed at Michigan Tech and used in the Michigan and several others states by rural and urban counties alike.

Michigan Tech is directly involved in addressing several trends/challenges identified in the Beyond Traffic document. We have conducted numerous studies related to the challenges faced in freight transportation in our region, conducted Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) to evaluate environmental impacts of different transportation materials and related solutions, are actively involved in emissions research for various engines, are one of the leaders in advancing open source 3D printing, have on-going projects related to V2V and automated vehicle research, and have had various projects related to alternative energies for transportation, especially in the biomass supply chains for biofuel development. Michigan Tech researchers and educators accomplish this innovative work through collaborative thinking and working across departments and disciplines, which allows us to tackle large-scale projects that require a diverse skill set.

 

Pasi Lautala
Pasi Lautala