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With $3.5 million, UW-led consortium will address national freight issues

January 20, 2012

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $3.5 million grant to the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE), a consortium led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The grant will fund research, outreach and education on multimodal freight systems and will allow CFIRE to continue its innovative freight research as a Tier I University Transportation Center (UTC).

Researchers in the center aim to make multimodal freight systems work for economic recovery and quality of life.

“Freight moves by truck, water, air and rail,” says Teresa Adams, a UW–Madison professor of civil and environmental engineering and CFIRE director. “This grant will allow us to identify strategies for better connecting the networks.”

The CFIRE consortium is a collaborative partnership among 10 universities arranged into northern and southern “hubs.”

Led by UW–Madison, the northern hub includes the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Superior, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Toledo, and Michigan Technological University. The University of Memphis will lead the southern hub, which also includes Vanderbilt University, University of Alabama-Huntsville, and University of Southern Mississippi.

“We are excited to be part of the CFIRE consortium and to serve as the head of the southern hub,” says Martin Lipinski, Ensafe Professor of Civil Engineering and director of the University of Memphis Intermodal Freight Transportation. “Our innovative structure-with a northern and southern hub-will allow us to address freight issues of national significance, as we have coverage of the heartland of the United States from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.”

Among those issues are increasing fuel costs and congestion, which have caused transportation costs to take a bigger share of the budget to produce and deliver manufactured and agricultural products, says Adams.

“The goal of our center is to achieve an interconnected freight system that is safe, clean and efficient,” she says. “By achieving that goal we will contribute to the economic competitiveness of our state, region and nation.”

The CFIRE consortium encompasses a geographical area that serves the majority of freight traffic in the United States. Consortium members offer a wide range of expertise in truck, rail, waterway, air and multimodal freight planning, management, and operations. Additionally, they have a deep history of conducting successful, research, education, outreach and technology transfer in support of the freight community.

Partner institutions have collaborative relationships with state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations and local municipalities, as well as with shippers and carriers across all modes. In particular, CFIRE has forged collaborative relationships with Canadian National Railroad, Ingram Barge Company, and Huntington Ingalls Industries.

“UW-Madison has a long history and admirable track record as a transportation research center,” says U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.). “I know that CFIRE, with the various members of its consortium, will continue its first class research in the area of freight transportation and infrastructure, which will be of benefit to Wisconsin and the Midwest region. Being selected by the U.S. DOT as a Tier I University Transportation Center validates the good work done by CFIRE in the past and points to a bright future.”

The U.S. DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration administers the University Transportation Center program. In a highly competitive selection process, it awarded 22 University Transportation Center grants nationwide.

CFIRE was among 46 applicants for 10 Tier 1 University Transportation Center grants. These centers will advance U.S. transportation technology and expertise in research, education and technology transfer. Each center receives a $3.5 million grant it must match with funds from non-federal sources. CFIRE also is a partner institution within the Regional University Transportation Center grant awarded to Purdue University.

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