Today, with The Honorable John Warner as the keynote speaker, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) dedicated its new 22,000 square-foot building in Blacksburg as the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence (STSCE). University administrators as well as other local and state officials also attended.
The Center was formally awarded to VTTI through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in July 2006. In cooperation with FHWA, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and its research arm, the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC), and General Motors Corp. (GM), STSCE will provide VTTI the opportunity to continue to collaborate with its many partners in ground-breaking transportation safety research.
“With the number of people killed in traffic accidents now at a 15-year high, it is paramount that we as a nation put a renewed emphasis on examining automobile safety, roadway safety, and driver behavior,” said Warner. “Virginia Tech, through VTTI, will continue in the years to come to be a national leader in this very important research.”
Warner was instrumental in designating VTTI as a Center for Excellence in Section 5309 of the August 2005 federal transportation bill titled Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The goal of the Center, as defined by the legislation, is to develop and disseminate advanced transportation safety innovations to rural and urban communities.
The Center will focus on four areas of transportation safety research: driver performance, pavement delineation and lighting, older and younger drivers, and fatigued drivers. All four of these research areas have risen in importance in the effort to improve transportation safety and to prevent some of the estimated 40,000 deaths that occur on the nation’s highways each year.
Over the years, VTTI has demonstrated successes in exploring crash causation and identifying and developing crash countermeasures in these focus areas. Specifically, the funding provided by STSCE and VTTI’s partners will enable the Institute to further analyze these safety issues and to continue developing and proving safety countermeasures.
"VTTI has proven to be a valuable partner in our safety research efforts," said Bob Lange, GM executive director of structure and safety integration. "The technical skill and professionalism of the team is superior in every way."
In addition to the STSCE designation, VDOT and VTRC are working with VTTI to establish the Virginia Cooperative Center for Transportation Safety Excellence. This center will leverage similar research to that conducted under STSCE with a focus on the transportation issues specifically facing Virginia.
Cindy Wilkinson, VTTI’s operations director and co-principal investigator of STSCE, said, “VTTI, with its research partners, has an opportunity to build the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence into a program that will extend well beyond the initial years of funding.”
VTTI has grown tremendously over the last seven years. The new building was completed in June of this year and was built to accommodate VTTI’s rapidly increasing staff of transportation safety researchers. VTTI’s research expenditures have grown from $3.7 million in 1998 to $12 million in 2005. The Institute conservatively estimates that funding will exceed $20 million within the next two years.
VTTI Director Dr. Tom Dingus said, “Due to our talented and dedicated staff of researchers, our world-class research facilities including the Smart Road, and the continued support of the Virginia Congressional delegation and our research partners, VTTI is poised to make a significant impact in reducing the numbers of lives lost and injuries occurring on our nation’s highways.”