Two transportation projects that involve the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga have received more than $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.
One project received a grant of almost $1.9 million to fund the ongoing “MLK Smart Corridor” study being run by the UTC Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP), which is researching transportation systems to make them more efficient and safer, finding new and better methods for energy delivery and improving health care for the region.
The MLK project involves a series of cameras that have been monitoring and documenting vehicle traffic along M.L. King Boulevard from Georgia Avenue to Central Avenue. Poles at the intersections on the route have cameras that cover the entire intersection. By keeping an eye on traffic, the project is trying to determine whether steps can be taken to make it flow more smoothly, including synchronizing traffic lights.
With the federal grant, “the MLK Smart Corridor is taking the next logical step in its development,” said Mina Sartipi, director of CUIP and UC Foundation professor in the UTC Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
“We know the harmful environmental impacts of unnecessary vehicle emissions from idling at red lights. With adaptive traffic control systems communicating with vehicles and infrastructures, we can optimize traffic flows so as to optimize energy consumption and reduce/eliminate vehicle idling.,” she explained.
The new research also examines how public transit, pedestrians and emergency vehicles interact at the intersections, she said.
The project is led by UTC in collaboration with the City of Chattanooga, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh. Three members of UTC faculty also are involved—Osama Osman, Dalei Wu and Yu Lian, all professors in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The second grant of $1.75 million was awarded to the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, or CARTA, which is partnering with UTC on a project to help the public transit system become more efficient.
“Public-transit systems face a trade-off between concentrating service into high-utilization routes that serve large numbers of people and spreading out service to ensure that people everywhere have access to at least some service,” said the project’s grant proposal. “As a result, improving the efficiency of an existing system while enhancing service in terms of both usefulness and coverage is challenging.
The research proposal outlined the project’s three objectives: “Minimizing energy per passenger per mile, minimizing total energy consumed and maximizing the percentage of daily trips served by public transit.”
Funding for the two UTC-affiliated research projects was among $139 million in federal funding for 55 projects announced Thursday by U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, who said the research will support advanced vehicle technologies across the country.
“Technological innovation is key to revitalizing America’s manufacturing competitiveness, especially in the transportation sector,” Brouillette said when announcing the grants at a General Motors facility in Detroit.
Sartipi said the research funded by the grants not only helps Chattanooga as a whole but also provides UTC students with learning opportunities.
“Federal grants are opportunities to stimulate innovation in a community that benefits the country, the regional infrastructure and provide educational experience for students,” she said. “Investments like this are another affirmation that UTC and our collaborative community are valuable contributors to the research community at large.”