Fledgling Transportation Center Is on the Forefront of National Transit

The motto of the Univer-sity of Vermont National Uni-versity Transportation Center (UTC) reflects ambitious yet invaluable goals for the future of transportation in the state as well as the nation. A joint project between UVM and the federal govern-ment, the center is the brain-child of former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords, who secured $16 million in funding as part of the 2005 federal highway bill, signed into law by President Bush. Beginning in 2005 as the 10th National UTC, UVM joined the ranks of other uni-versities throughout the coun-try such as UC Davis and MIT. What sets the UVM National UTC apart from the others is its particular vision. “Our theme is sustainable transportation systems in a northern environment,” Rich-ard Watts, senior research analyst for the UTC, said. In other universities, “a lot of [research] is around pavement management, engineering and structures.” The UTC plans to address this goal through a three-year signature research project with a budget of up to $2 mil-lion, one-year faculty research grants, a graduate certificate program, graduate fellowships and a new $1,000 allowance for undergraduate research. So how does the National UTC fit into UVM and its image of a university on the forefront of environmental stewardship? “Half of the carbon emissions in the state come from cars [and] a third of the CO2 in the US comes from transporta-tion,” Watts said. That in mind, the center hopes to take a step in the right direction, closing the gap between environmen-tal health and transportation issues. “We’re trying to re-invent transportation for the 21st century,” Watts said. Research is a key compo-nent of the center, with four signature research projects based on integrated transpor-tation and land use models, emissions and performance of alternative vehicles in northern climates, sustainable transportation for tourism, non-motorized transportation and livability and isolation in northern climates. These topics are pertinent transportation issues in Ver-mont, and they also carry rel-evance on a national scale. Tucked away on the second floor of Farrell Hall on Trinity campus, The National UTC is housed with several other fed-erally funded centers such as the Vermont Advanced Com-puting Center (VACC).With only three resident staff members, Director Lisa Aultman-Hall, Senior Re-search Analyst Richard Watts and Office Manager Roger Aspinall, the center is able to dedicate most of its funding to student and faculty projects, making it a prime asset for anyone academically inclined to conduct research on issues surrounding environmentally-friendly transportation. So, what does the future hold for the National UTC? “We have funding for five years,” Watts said. “After those five years we hope that UVM will be a national leader in research around transpor-tation and environmental is-sues.” With the state of the envi-ronment becoming a steady presence among headlines, UVM’s opportunity to host such a prime research institu-tion may symbolize national recognition of the University’s growing reputation in regards to both the environment and research.