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
Eventually, the goal is to raise the profile of transportation studies and service at Rutgers and in New Jersey to match that of the University of California Transportation Center and the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.
The Voorhees Transportation Center was founded in 1998 and is focused on policy and transportation worker training. It provides a statewide forum for public policy in transportation and creates links to related areas such as economic development, land use, political governance, finance and social policy.
The center handles projects for local, state and federal government dealing with the state’s rail-freight system and works on improving pedestrian safety throughout New Jersey. The NTI recently received a $200,000 contract from the federal Department of Homeland Security to develop an anti-terror training program for Amtrak employees and freight and commuter railroads.
At the other end of the spectrum, CAIT is mainly comprised of engineers. They spend most of their time on research to build highways, bridges and other infrastructure. Scientists at CAIT have carved out expertise in designing sensors that monitor the condition of bridges and tunnels.
Seeking to improve one of New Jersey’s many transportation woes, Maher said that CAIT’s Asphalt Pavement Laboratory works on developing quieter, more durable pavement. The center, located on Busch campus, also deals with transportation security, monitoring and controlling traffic flow and gauging the effectiveness of park-and-ride lots.
The Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) transfers technology and findings from the lab to public works directors, highway safety officials and other transportation professionals. CAIT’s activities have grown so much that the center requires a new building. The $4.3 million project is under construction on Busch campus and is paid for by Rutgers, federal and state transportation agencies and industry groups. The project is slated for completion by May 2005.
“We sort of outgrew the space that we are operating from,” Maher said. He added that, although CAIT’s work had been interdisciplinary before, the collaborations were mainly among scientists in technical fields.
“We had minimal exposure to planning and policy aspects of our projects. Basically we would tell our clients that we are not involved [in policy],” Maher said.
“Since starting to forge this close relationship with Voorhees we are expanding our horizons and looking at bigger projects where we can team up. Now that we know exactly what they offer and what their capabilities are, it has expanded our operation.”