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UI transportation receives more money to fund research

The University of Idaho transportation institute will receive an additional $3.4 million in research funding for environmentally responsible transportation options.

The funding will allow UI’s National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology to run the transportation center for a second year. The center is one of only 10 such facilities in the country.

The center’s goal is to reduce both fuel consumption and pollution emissions by finding ways to better manage and operate the transportation system and improve education for drivers, NIATT Director Karen DenBraven said.

Two of the center’s major research areas are engine design and traffic-control technology. The intersection between improved engines and better transportation control systems that reduce traffic congestion is something DenBraven said has not been studied to the extent UI is researching it now.

The center’s first year of funding paid for foundational research, and the second year will allow NIATT to start testing and implementation, said Ahmed Abdel-Rahim, one of NIATT’s lead researchers.

Other NIATT projects include driving simulators to teach users how to reduce the environmental impact of their driving, studying real-time vehicle data, and developing alternative-fuel vehicles, such as a hybrid race car constructed by university students.

NIATT is also a partner in a U.S. Department of Transportation-funded regional transportation center. The regional center also received a second year of funding, with $554,000 going to UI.

The regional center activities include educating teen drivers about distracted driving, research of biofuels, improving rural roads and designing city roads that better incorporate vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

UI’s work with the regional center includes developing traffic signals for physically impaired users, such as “talking” crosswalk signals.

NIATT has received more than $8 million from federal transportation grants in the past two years.