USDOT Awards More Than $20 Million in Grants to Advance Transportation Research and Solutions at Morgan State University
New Round of Federal Funding Seeds Morgan State’s National Center for Transportation Management, Research and Development $15 Million to Lead ‘SMARTER’ Regional Transportation Center
BALTIMORE – The Morgan State University National Center for Transportation Management, Research and Development (NTC) has further cemented its position as one of the nation’s foremost transportation research authorities, with the recent receipt of a $15-million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). The announced round of federal funding is part of an extensive Biden administration commitment to upscale transportation innovation and research, as well as invest in vital training for a diverse next generation of transportation leaders. In all, Morgan’s NTC and Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., School of Engineering Civil Engineering program is expected to receive funding from more than $20 million in transportation grant commitments over the next five years.
In further support of the regional SMARTER Center, Maryland’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) has committed an additional $4 million in state appropriations to the NTC at Morgan spanning the five-year term of the transportation research initiative.
“Morgan’s National Transportation Center was among the first regional DOT-designated transportation centers of its kind and has exemplified true leadership in this capacity in the research and innovation of our evolving transportation needs,” said David K. Wilson, president of Morgan. “This recognition of Morgan’s value by way of funding received from the Department of Transportation underpins our strengths and leadership in transportation research and education. We look forward to continuing the center’s work in addressing an array of transportation challenges, from congestion and energy efficiency to equity and modernization. This level of support will help us achieve our goals in these critical areas.”
As the prime recipient of one of the regional awards, Morgan’s NTC will serve as the principal institution coalescing a consortium of institutions in the formation of the USDOT Region 3 University Transportation Center’s (UTC’s) Sustainable Mobility and Accessibility Regional Transportation Equity Research (SMARTER) Center — which establishes Morgan as the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and the first university in Maryland to lead a USDOT Regional University Transportation Center (UTC).
The SMARTER Center will address the transportation issues specific to DOT-designated Region 3 of the U.S., which comprises the area largely spanning the Mid-Atlantic. The partner institutions forming the SMARTER Center include Howard University, University of Delaware, University of Maryland, University of Pittsburgh, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University.
“We are honored and excited to receive this level of support from the Department of Transportation. This funding will enable us to actively pursue integrated, transformative and interdisciplinary research; technology transfer; education; workforce development; and community outreach with a resolute team of government agencies, industry partners and partner academic institutions,” said Mansoureh Jeihani, Ph.D., director of Morgan State University’s National Transportation Center, which is housed in the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., School of Engineering.
The Mid-Atlantic region serves as one of the nation’s earliest transportation hubs, providing a convergence of diverse transit modalities, infrastructure, demands and inequities. Inadequate access to affordable transportation, and transit deserts in the region’s urban communities, coupled with growing congestion along major interstate corridors such as I-95 and I-66, present persistent challenge for residents and policymakers alike. The Center will work with state departments of transportation in the region, and with other public and private sector partners, to facilitate innovation, strategic planning and the development of a diverse transportation workforce in the Mid-Atlantic.
The SMARTER Center’s research activities will focus on providing immediate and near-immediate implementation capabilities for policy makers, industry and the public at large. Researchers will explore novel applications for emerging technologies, such as machine learning, connected and automated vehicles and electric vehicles, to strengthen the region’s transportation network.
Morgan’s NTC and its partners will work to not only address these issues but also to bring about sensible, innovative transit-oriented solutions to curb the adverse effects of food deserts; rising transit costs; congestion along ports and interstates; and climate change, particularly flooding.
“Transportation is universal, and we intend to augment our research efforts with a strong dose of community involvement,” added Dr. Jeihani. “Engaging underserved communities and community-based organizations in research and workforce development initiatives designed to improve mobility in the region and expand multimodal transit options, both for rural and urban travelers, is essential. Community has to be central to solutions that not just support but drive equity and sustainability.”
The USDOT grant underwriting the SMARTER Center initiative is part of a nearly $435 million investment to support 34 University Transportation Centers (UTCs) announced earlier this year. In addition to receiving its award for the SMARTER Center initiative, Morgan was a subrecipient of four other USDOT grants, including two National and two Tier-1 awards intended to further existing research, education and technology transfer. The full complement of Morgan transportation projects to receive funding over the next five years includes:
- Prime Regional Award: SMARTER Center – Research Priority: Improving the Mobility of People and Goods (MSU Principal Investigator: Dr. Mansoureh Jeihani)
- National Subaward: National Center for Transportation Cybersecurity and Resiliency (TraCR) – Research Priority: Reducing Transportation Cybersecurity Risks (MSU Principal Investigator: Dr. Mansoureh Jeihani)
- National Subaward: Safety21 – Research Priority: Promoting Transit and Mobility Safety (MSU Principal Investigator: Dr. Jiang Li)
- Tier-1 Subaward: Center for Climate-Smart Transportation – Research Priority: Preserving the Environment (MSU Principal Investigator: Dr. Mansoureh Jeihani)
- Tier-1 Subaward: Center for Multi-Modal Mobility in Urban, Rural and Tribal Areas – Research Priority: Improving the Mobility of People and Goods (MSU Principal Investigator: Dr. Celeste Chavis)
The Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Center Program aims to improve the efficiency, safety and sustainability of the nation’s transportation system by supporting research, education and technology transfer activities at universities and other institutions across the country. The NTC at Morgan, one of 35 UTCs nationwide, was established by the United States Congress under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Supported by earmarked funds from its opening in 1992 through 2012, the NTC has thrived at Morgan since then through the University’s successful nationwide competition against other higher education institutions. The Center celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.
Since its inception, the NTC has completed 117 research projects, with total funding eclipsing $50 million, and has published 160 journal articles, conference papers and technical reports in the last five years alone. In 2016, the NTC spawned a second subunit, the Urban Mobility & Equity Center, a multi-university partnership committed to improving urban mobility of people and goods in an environmentally sustainable and equitable manner.
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified high research (R2) institution offering more than 140 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, and the only university to have its entire campus designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.