Credit: Nick Romanenko
Ali Maher, director of the Center for
Advanced Infrastructure and
Transportation, left, and Martin Robins,
director of the Alan M. Voorhees
Transportation Center, stand at the
crossroads of Route 18 and the NJ
Transit Northeast Corridor rail - two of
the most heavily traveled transportation
lines in central New Jersey. Their new
partnership seeks multidisciplinary
solutions to the state's transportation
A bump-free ride down the interstate, a gasoline-free car and a smooth evacuation plan in the event of a major attack on a transportation hub are just some of the fruits that university officials anticipate from a new, ambitious partnership between two transportation research centers.
The directors of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation joined forces in July to form the Transportation Coordinating Council – the collaborative body within the university that plans to make Rutgers one of the nation’s premier centers of transportation research, service and policy, as well as launch the school to the ranks of the top research universities in the country.
“The goal is to make Rutgers truly the transportation university, said President Richard L. McCormick, “the university where the best and the most comprehensive research, education, training and service to our community occurs in the broad spectrum of transportation.”
Transportation is central to the lives of most New Jersey residents and the lifeline of the state’s economy in several ways. “It immediately impacts the quality of life, like when you get cut off or stuck in traffic jams because of congestion,” said Ali Maher, director of CAIT. “Its impact on the environment immediately affects the quality of life – the air, the water, the soil, everything.” Maher also pointed out that about $100 billion worth of goods passes through the ports and harbors each year, generating a need for a large labor force. “The safety and security of our transportation systems are crucial to make all these economic activities move forward,” Maher said.
“The new alliance has enormous promise for organizing disparate Rutgers expertise to develop multidisciplinary assistance to government agencies and regional businesses,” said Martin Robins, director of the Voorhees Center, a unit of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. Some early benefits of the partnership are CAIT-developed software that simulates the evacuation of transportation and medical facilities and is offered through training at Voorhees; assisting ports in alleviating congestion problems; and supplying technology support to the state’s Intelligent Transportation System that will provide guidance to motorists. Both centers had programs on developing hydrogen fuel cells for batteries as an alternative fuel for automobiles and are pooling their resources. They are working together on freight movement policy and engineering. And CAIT and Voorhees are developing a Web site together where people can pose questions and receive answers about moving hazardous materials.
The partnership and pooling of resources grew out of old-fashioned schmoozing. A dinner with local transportation leaders and a lunch with President Richard L. McCormick and Gov. James E. McGreevey gave birth to the idea of the Transportation Coordinating Council, Robins said. After that body met in July, VTC and CAIT joined forces. The Rutgers Business School’s Center for Supply Chain Management in Newark will work with both centers on matters concerning inventory, movement and distribution using transportation, Robins said.
In addition to uniting the work of the VTC and CAIT, the university will push for deeper ties to federal agencies, which are seeking more multidisciplinary research and projects. “Rutgers is already a national leader in transportation research,” said Francine Newsome Pfeiffer, director of the Office of Federal Relations. The federal Department of Transportation already supports CAIT and the Voorhees Center’s National Transit Institute (NTI). “The effort being led by Ali and Martin are sure to bolster the university’s transportation capabilities even further. Federal and state agencies already look to Rutgers to help address many real-world challenges facing our nation’s roads, rails and ports. Closer collaboration among the university’s experts will make Rutgers more effective than ever in that effort.”