UM System to announce Transportation Innovation Center
COLUMBIA - The UM System is set to announce a joint effort with MoDOT on Tuesday.
The new partnership is called the Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation.
The Center will partner the four UM System universities with MoDOT and other transportation stakeholders, such as the Federal Highway Administration.
The UM System and MoDOT said the vision for the center is "to establish Missouri as a showcase and a clearinghouse for safe, accessible, sustainable and resilient transportation."
Bill Buttlar is a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at MU. He will serve as the director of the new Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation.
"Transportation, we're all familiar with," Buttlar said. "But you don't realize how technical it is to make sure that the roads and bridges and airports that we enjoy are safe and fast and efficient."
Buttlar said his goal as director of the center is to work with the people through outreach and public education.
"We want to interact with the public," Buttlar said. "If they have innovative ideas about new transportation systems or modes, we want to interact with them, as well."
Buttlar talked about holding outreach activities, such as various conferences on specific topics, such as asphalt or bridges.
He said there is currently no general transportation conference for the state of Missouri.
Buttlar ran a similar one in Illinois before coming to MU.
"I have a vision that we could have an amazing, mid-continental transportation conference here, focusing on innovation," Buttlar said.
He said the people of Missouri will be able to see the benefit of the center very soon.
"If you're in a state that does a lot of transportation research, you'll notice that the whole state is a living laboratory," Buttlar said. "Eventually you'll see that things are getting safer, more efficient and more cost-effective for the state taxpayers."
Buttlar gave credit to university leadership in the development of the center, citing UM System President Mun Choi's desire for more inter-campus initiatives.
"When he heard about this possibility to have the four campuses in the UM System to work together to develop the vision for the center, he started to really support that," Buttlar said. "Once we had that high-level university support, the faculty colleagues at our three other universities outside of Mizzou came together very quickly to draw up the plans for the center."
Buttlar was excited about the high-end research topics the center will be working on, such as smart materials in roads to help in weather.
"Smart materials will allow the pavement to sense what's going on, then to report that information back to a central database," Buttlar said. "Not only will the cars have more sensors, and humans carrying smartphones, but the materials themselves are going to have an embedded intelligence."
The joint ceremony for the announcement of the Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation will be held at the MoDOT Central Laboratory in Jefferson City at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.