UMass Amherst leads the Region 1: New England UTC consortia, having received a $15 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to promote safety.

On Feb 21, 2023 the USDOT announced a $15 million, five-year grant to fund the Region 1: New England University Transportation Center (NEUTC)— a strong team led by UMass Amherst. NEUTC is uniquely qualified to lead this regional effort, and brings together research and education leaders with a proven track record of delivering cutting-edge research to address key challenges in the delivery of equitable transportation safety.

NEUTC promises to advance transportation expertise and technology throughout the transportation discipline and contribute towards workforce development through the delivery of a robust research, education, and technology transfer agenda in support of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) statutory research priority of Promoting Safety along with the US DOT Strategic Plan Goals of Equity and Transformation.

Our mission to advance equitable safety through transformative research will cover four thematic priority areas:

  1. Embedding Equity and Community Engagement within Transportation Safety: developing and integrating best practices to comprehensively improve transportation safety through an equity lens (or existing inequities), while actively engaging the public in generation (e.g., knowledge co-development) and dissemination of safety solutions.
  2. Developing Smart Infrastructure and Connected Systems: optimizing roadway infrastructure to improve safety and reduce congestion through advancements in telecommunication, sensors, improvement in geometric design, augmented reality, driver assistance systems, human-machine interactions, as well as by addressing cybersecurity risks of hardware, software, and infrastructure systems.
  3. Improving Safety for all Modes and Populations: examining the synergistic relationships between safety and mobility and considering specific needs of vulnerable populations (e.g., underserved communities, disadvantaged populations, and people with disabilities) across modal preferences (e.g., pedestrians, bicyclists, commercial vehicles, and automated vehicles) to develop a fully integrated transportation system. 
  4. Promoting Automated Vehicle Safety: identifying, developing, and evaluating novel approaches that promote safety between automated vehicles, which move both people and goods, and all road users, including all types of vehicle drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians; evaluating the human and machine interface as well as the cybersecurity risks of automated vehicle systems.

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) has been quite active within the UTC program since its inception, and we are excited about having been asked by several peer institutions to lead this effort. Notable highlights of this uniquely capable consortium include:

  • A longstanding and productive relationship with transportation stakeholders in each of the New England States, including all 6 DOTs;
  • An extensive advisory board to help shape the research direction and implementation that includes a mix of DOTs, vehicle manufacturers, data providers, safety stakeholders, and technology companies;
  • A mix of highly capable researchers and educators from a blend of universities (public and private, with geographic representation across the region) and a diverse set of disciplines, including human factors, engineering, computer science, regional planning, public policy, public health, and sociology;
  • Integration of innovative new ideas with established best practices, including initial funding of collaborative projects of high DOT priority at the outset of the grant, a fully vetted peer review process for proposals, and a robust technology transfer program that leverages the novel DECIDE© platform as well as the three federally funded Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Centers within our consortium;
  • A wide-ranging education-related program that will expand our transportation knowledge base and broaden participation in transportation. As an example, we will expand and scale a pilot program (Bridging Expectations) we have developed to introduce Springfield MA Public School students to career paths in transportation; and 
  • Incorporation of fresh perspectives from universities and researchers new to the UTC program (Holyoke Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, and Norwich University), coupled with those having a successful track record within the UTC program, including four schools (MIT, UMass, UMaine and UConn) that have previously led a UTC.

USDOT invests in the future of transportation through its University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program, which awards and administers grants to consortia of colleges and universities across the United States. The UTC Program advances the state-of-the-art in transportation research and technology and develops the next generation of transportation professionals. Together, they advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through education, solutions-oriented research and technology transfer, and the exploration and sharing of cutting-edge ideas and approaches.

There are 5 national centers, 20 thematically based Tier 1 centers, and 10 regional centers; New England is Region 1.