The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded a grant of $3.5 million to a multi-university consortium led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to establish a rail transportation and engineering research center. Headquartered within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Illinois, the National University Rail (NURail) Center will focus on rail education and research to improve railroad safety, efficiency and reliability. Particular focus will be on challenges associated with rail corridors in which higher-speed passenger trains share infrastructure with freight trains.
The NURail Center will be the first UTC focused solely on rail, and the proposal received broad support from a large number of public, private sector, and international rail organizations. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign leads a consortium of research universities including the University of Kentucky, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan Technical University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee.
Within the theme of shared rail corridors, research projects will focus on track and structures; train control; rolling stock; human factors, and other topics identified based on Federal Railroad Administration and Association of American Railroads priorities. The center will be under the direction of Professor Christopher P.L. Barkan, the Krambles Faculty Fellow and director of the Illinois Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC).
These research grants are part of $77 DOT million in grants to 22 UTCs—involving a total of 121 different universities across the country—to advance research and education programs that address critical transportation challenges facing the nation. The UTCs conduct research that directly supports the priorities of the DOT on transportation-related issues such as shared rail corridors, innovations in multimodal freight and infrastructure, bridge inspection methods, and reducing roadway fatalities and injuries.