The University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez campus (known as the RUM in Spanish) will receive $750,000 in grant funding over three years to participate as a member of the National Institute for Congestion Reduction, a project led by the University of South Florida, it announced.
The Florida college received a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and will run the initiative under a university consortium that is also comprised of the University of California at Berkeley and Texas A&M University.
All four institutions are working on this proposal selected under the federal agency’s University Transportation Centers (UTC) program, to address the challenges of vehicular obstruction on the roads, among other problems.
By being chosen as a member, RUM became the first Puerto Rican university to become part of a UTC nationwide, although it had already participated in similar projects within that research program, Alberto Figueroa-Medina, chief researcher, confirmed.
He added that the local work team is currently responsible for five projects, which will receive $250,000 per year for three years from the total $7.5 million in funds awarded.
“The NICR’s mission is to identify and study multimodal strategies to reduce congestion, through technological advancements, big data science, and transportation innovations,” said professor at the RUM’s Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying.
“The Institute will carry out integrated research, education, professional development and technology transfer activities,” he said.
Team members also include professors Benjamín Colucci, Ivette Cruzado, Daniel Rodríguez, Didier Valdés, David González, and Carlos Del Valle. Ten students from different faculties will also join the effort, he said.
“We know that the RUM is distinguished by its achievements in education, research and technology transfer in transportation in the Caribbean and Latin America,” Figueroa-Medina said.
“So, the NICR will be a new example for teaching and preparing future expert professionals who will be in charge of strategies to reduce vehicle congestion that affects our economic development and personal mobility,” he added.
Some of the subject areas that the college experts will explore include: urban micro-mobility through the rise of e-scooter rental services; an application to give real-time information on transport services in a city; the use of managed lanes on freeways; and surveillance of road corridors using drones, among others.
“The allocation of federal funds to the RUM by the NICR represents a total of $750,000 over three years. In addition to being exposed to research experiences and interacting with professors and students from the other universities in the consortium, our students will benefit from research assistantships and travel expenses to attend conferences and congresses to present their studies and findings,” Figueroa-Medina said.
The NICR proposal was selected in September 2019, from among 50 others that participated in the call by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Currently, there are 37 University Transportation Centers, of which only seven are nationwide, college officials said.