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New UAF transportation center to focus on safety issues


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A new federally funded transportation center led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks will address safety issues in underserved areas of Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.

The Center for Safety Equity in Transportation is being established by a five-year, $7.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The UAF Institute of Northern Engineering/Alaska University Transportation Center will be the hub for CSET, which also includes partners at the University of Hawaii, University of Idaho and University of Washington. Billy Connor will serve as director of the new center.

CSET will focus on transportation challenges in rural, isolated, and tribal and indigenous communities. The goal of the center will be to work toward “safer, better and smarter” transportation in those areas, which haven’t always been well-served by conventional approaches.

“We made an argument that these areas have critical transportation safety issues that need to be addressed,” said CSET assistant director Nathan Belz. “Our goal surrounds the idea that if you have a right to get there, you have a right to get there safely.”

The funding will pay for research, education and outreach, including funding and support for faculty members, students and administration. Specific projects haven’t been developed yet, but they will look at both general issues with rural transportation safety and regionally specific ones, Belz said.

Safety strategies for rural areas in Alaska will include the context of cultural preservation and heritage. CSET will also seek strategies to accommodate alternative forms of transportation such as ATVs, snowmachines and dog sleds, which are common in parts of Alaska but are not typically considered in the planning and design process.

 

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