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University awarded funds for new transportation center

by Michael Kirk - September 15, 2008


UConn was recently awarded $2 million in funding over four years by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, thanks to the University’s status as co-leader of the National Transportation Security Center of Excellence.

The School of Engineering was named research lead of the new Center of Excellence earlier in the year. It will provide key oversight and coordination of efforts among the seven identified partner institutions, relevant agencies of the federal and state governments, first-responder agencies, and other future partners.

The federal funding provides a minimum of $500,000 a year for the next four years, and allows UConn to compete for an additional $1.5 million in funding during FY ’08.

“As the research lead, we will coordinate the efforts of our partners to develop state-of-the-art techniques and advanced methods to defend, protect, and increase the resilience of the nation’s transportation infrastructure,” says Mun Choi, dean of engineering.

“We look forward to the opportunity to involve our students, industry leaders, transportation officials, and the public in building a new transportation paradigm that meets current and future needs.”

The partners include Texas Southern University, San José State University, Rutgers, Tougaloo College in Mississippi, Long Island University, and the University of Arkansas.

The Connecticut Congressional delegation was instrumental in UConn’s successful bid to host the center, one of a consortium of new university-based research centers established by the federal government.

UConn’s School of Engineering is home to the Connecticut Transportation Institute (CTI), the Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center, and the Booth Engineering Center for Advanced Technologies, all of which will contribute to the center’s activities.

UConn will also interact with other DHS centers of excellence and federal laboratories, as well as partnering with the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security.

Mehdi Anwar, associate dean and professor of engineering, and director of the new National Transportation Security Center of Excellence.
Mehdi Anwar, associate dean and professor of engineering, and director of the new National Transportation Security Center of Excellence.
Photo by Peter Morenus

The other new national centers of excellence will study border security and immigration; explosives detection, mitigation, and response; maritime, island, and port security; and natural disasters, coastal infrastructure, and emergency management.

A total of 11 colleges and universities, including UConn, will be home to the five separate centers.

Mehdi Anwar, associate dean of engineering and director of the newly formed center at UConn, says, “Our efforts will lead to the enhanced resilience, durability, and independence of the nation’s individual critical infrastructure and key resources components, in order to minimize the impact of breaches upon society, industry, and government operation, and reduce the ripple effect within other parts of the larger infrastructure.”

As research lead, he says, the center will coordinate activities including identifying the nation’s most vulnerable transportation sites and networks; developing real-time monitoring and alert systems to notify rapid-response teams; modeling the complex supply/demand needs of key critical infrastructure resources; collecting, fusing, and deciphering real-time data, and transmitting it securely for reliable communications during crises; and modeling evacuation optimization strategies.

Other activities will include citizen-awareness campaigns, training of transportation and transit personnel, and developing the nation’s future security workforce.

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