The University of New Orleans Transportation Institute will receive nearly $1.4 million over five years as part of a consortium designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a Maritime Transportation Research and Education Center, or MarTREC. The consortium is led by the University of Arkansas and includes researchers from UNO, Jackson State University in Mississippi, Louisiana State University, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and Texas A&M University. The center’s work will focus on preserving the existing U.S. transportation system by conducting a multidisciplinary program of maritime and multimodal transportation research, education and technology transfer. With a new administration in Washington having pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and other international trade deals, the importance of understanding maritime transportation and its role in domestic and global trade takes on renewed importance.
“Maintaining the efficiency of America’s global supply chains is exceptionally important to the nation’s continued economic vitality, and UNO’s Transportation Institute is uniquely qualified to provide essential research for the U.S. Department of Transportation through MarTREC,” said Bethany Stich, associate director of MarTREC and director of UNO’s Transportation Institute. Stich also serves as associate director of the National Center for Strategic Transportation Policies, Investments and Decisions and chairs the Department of Planning and Urban Studies at UNO.
The amount awarded to the entire consortium is expected to total up to $7 million in federal funding and $3.5 million in matching funds over a five-year period. The center’s work will address the design of supply-chain networks to optimize resources and minimize congestion on navigable waterways as well as efficient design and planning for barge containers, shipping cycle times, reliability, safety and environmental preservation. The consortium will also examine unique development patterns in urban areas associated with waterborne transportation. Examples of these patterns include transit-oriented development in port cities and towns, the development of complete street policies that support both passenger and freight movements and the integration of planning and policies associated with the shared space of tourism, commerce, livability and coastal sustainability.
The role of the UNO Transportation Institute in the consortium will focus on the economic benefits of waterway infrastructure and the urban development that surrounds it. UNO’s research team is partnering with the Port of New Orleans, the Port of South Louisiana, the Port Security Council and Jefferson Parish Transit to conduct its research. Additionally, MarTREC supports the transportation master’s degree program housed within the institute. The program is one of the first in the United States that trains students in multimodal freight and passenger transportation systems.
Five of the top 12 U.S. ports (by tonnage) are located in Louisiana, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The Port of South Louisiana is the largest tonnage port in the western hemisphere, making multimodal transportation research and management essential to the economic development potential for greater New Orleans region, Louisiana and the nation.
Congress established the University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program in 1987. Since then, the U.S. Department of Transportation has administered grants to consortia of colleges and universities across the country to conduct research and technology transfer addressing the nation’s ever-growing need for the safe, efficient and environmentally sound movement of people and goods. Each UTC is a consortium of two- and four-year colleges and universities that come together to form a unique center of transportation excellence on a specific research topic.