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How do we solve traffic congestion? The feds hope USF can find some answers.

The University of South Florida is creating a new program focused on solving traffic congestion, using a $7.5 million grant announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

USF was one of 50 applicants for the grant, which will fund the National Institute for Congestion Reduction. Housed in the College of Engineering, it will be the department's only national center focused on addressing congestion challenges facing the country's urban areas.

RELATED: Tampa drivers lost 87 hours — plus $1,200 each — because of traffic last year, report says

"As a preeminent research university located in the heart of the metropolitan Tampa Bay area, the University of South Florida has always been focused on the unique issues and challenges facing modern American cities," USF president Judy Genshaft said in a news release. "This designation is an affirmation of our leadership in this kind of meaningful applied research."

USF will partner with other recipients of the department's grant monies: University of California Berkeley, Texas A&M University and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. The program at USF will use emerging technology and data science to create innovative transportation options, the news release said.

ALSO READ: How could Malfunction Junction be transformed? New videos offer a glimpse of the future.

"We hope the impacts of these coordinated activities will be felt by the transportation industry, agencies and practitioners long after the life cycle of this grant is completed," said Florida Department of Transportation secretary Kevin Thibault, adding that the state is looking forward to working with USF.

Robert Bishop, dean of the College of Engineering, said the new program will serve as another example of how USF's research achieves positive societal impact.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

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