New center will focus on traffic congestion and mobility

aerial view of highway traffic

Increases in population and aging physical infrastructure across the U.S. have led to a broad increase in traffic congestion. Americans rely heavily on automotive vehicles due to a variety of reasons that include lack of access in many areas to public transportation, and the convenience, speed and comfort of personal vehicles.

The NC Department of Transportation recognizes that in order to take advantage of available data to more efficiently route traffic and improve infrastructure, the area’s strong university community is the state’s best bet to discover novel and cutting-edge solutions that can be applied both regionally and nationally. In order to achieve that lofty goal, the department is funding the creation of three University Research Centers of Excellence.

One of the three multi-disciplinary centers is focused on the reduction of congestion and improvement in mobility and will be led by Dr. Billy Williams, in conjunction with his role as director of NC State’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE).

NC State will serve as the lead on this initiative, but will work closely with research leaders at Duke University, Fayetteville State University, NC A&T State University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Researchers at each of these universities will serve as center associate directors. “We’re excited to work with our NCDOT partners and top university researchers from across North Carolina to enable improvements to our transportation systems that will provide access for all citizens to mobility options that minimize travel delay,” Williams said.

The research that comes out of the North Carolina Center of Excellence for Enhancing Mobility and Reducing Congestion will focus on three projects, each led by a principal investigator (PI) from a different North Carolina university.

They are:

  • Deep Learning Software for Traffic State Prediction, led by Dr. Sambit Bhattacharya, Fayetteville State University
  • Smart Connected and Automated Vehicle Fleet Management: Developing Regional Dispatch Decision Support for Congestion Mitigation, led by Dr. Mary (Missy) Cummings, Duke University
  • First Mile to Health: Improving Healthcare Access in North Carolina, led by Kai Monast, an ITRE researcher

“Rural areas and underserved populations experience many healthcare barriers which make it more difficult to live active, healthy lives. Affordable, reliable and convenient transportation helps to remove one of these barriers,” Monast said. “Because of the many recent changes in transportation and healthcare policy, we are going to explore how people access healthcare today and develop tools that help us build mobility networks for the future that focus on the needs of the individual.”

Co-PIs on the project include faculty members from NC State’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering and Department of Business Management.


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