Working toward the goal of integrating transportation modes throughout the United States to foster job growth and economic development, a multi-university team of Mississippi State-led researchers is receiving additional funding to help make it happen.
In early 2012, the MSU-based National Center for Intermodal Transportation for Economic Competitiveness received an initial $3.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant. The funding was shared with four other institutions, including the universities of Denver and Mississippi, and Louisiana State and Hampton universities.
Their collaboration has focused on developing an integrated and sustainable intermodal transportation network among all modes of transportation throughout the country.
Recently, the center received approximately $3.4 million in additional funding. NCITEC leaders currently are seeking proposals related to research, education, workforce development and technology transfer projects.
Center director Burak Eksioglu, an MSU associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, emphasized that intermodal research opportunities extend beyond engineering disciplines to the fields of political science, sociology, geosciences, psychology and architecture, among others.
"One of the goals is educating the next generation of transportation professionals," Eksioglu said. "There are going to be a lot of retirements coming up in the transportation fields, and there's some difficulty in attracting young people into this area. We're trying to educate people on career opportunities."
In addition to education and workforce development, applied research in intermodal transportation is especially important because it will be applicable in the near future, he emphasized.
Typically, successful research findings help persuade federal adminstrators to invest in certain areas because they are geographically positioned in important transportation corridors. Also, scientific investigations may demonstrate the importance of infrastructure investments, both over the long and short terms.
Eksioglu said that, while much of freight transportation-related research has been sponsored by businesses hoping to reduce their transport-related costs, the area of passenger transport offers many additional opportunities for study. As a result, rail passenger transport is being coupled, so to speak, with freight as an important area members of the NCITEC team now will explore.
"We are looking at the rail corridor that goes from New Orleans to Orlando," he said. "Part of it is in Mississippi, so we are trying to analyze that corridor and identify improvement areas and the benefits to the local economies along that corridor."
Eksioglu noted that two regional mayoral summits last fall dealt specifically with passenger transport issues.
"So basically, there is collaboration not only with academic institutions, but also with politicians to get their support," he said. "We are gathering academic support by conducting research studies; we are gathering political support by getting the local communities involved."
Among MSU graduate students participating in the research initiative are sociology doctoral student Jamie L. Boydstun. She recently was named NCITEC Student of the Year for a study of passenger usage-rates in intermodal transport.
A former Winston County resident now living in Starkville, Boydstun holds MSU bachelor's and master's degrees, also in sociology.
To learn more about the NCITEC or to submit a proposal by the March 15 deadline, visit www.ncitec.msstate.edu.