University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS)
The University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS) was established in Fall of 2013 and operates as a consortium of three institutions, namely; The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) – Lead Institution, Texas A&M University (TAMU), and The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). The lead institution is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Title V Hispanic-Serving Institution, with 90% Hispanic enrollment. It is 2nd in the nation in the number of Bachelor’s degrees and 3rd in the nation in the number of Master’s degrees awarded to Hispanics.
The strategic research goals of the UTCRS aim to fundamentally improve railway safety outcomes by the following means:
- Reducing fatalities and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings (HRGCs)
- Reducing failures by developing more durable materials and systems
- Developing advanced technology for infrastructure monitoring
- Developing innovative safety assessments and decision-making tools
The research conducted by the UTCRS can be subdivided into three main focus areas, namely,
1) Railway Mechanical Systems, which includes mechanical components performance characterization and failure mitigation, mechanical components condition monitoring techniques, and advances in rail components and maintenance protocols
2) Railway Operation Systems, which includes at-grade railway crossing safety, and railway operations safety
3) Railway Infrastructure Systems, which includes durable materials and systems, innovative safety assessments, and advanced technology for infrastructure monitoring
One of the main objectives of the UTCRS is to enhance student education and training through engagement in a variety of center activities including STEM summer camps, research experiences for students and teachers, engineering workshops, K-12 transportation curriculum development, and community outreach projects. The opportunity to contribute to the research and development of new technologies with practical value attracts students and faculty to be a part of the UTCRS. Creating pathways for students to pursue their master’s and doctoral studies in the areas of transportation engineering and railways safety is one of the most important center missions. The training of a sophisticated workforce which is thoroughly grounded in the specific demands of rail service will have a long term effect on system safety through improved safety assessments, counter-measures, and decision-making tools.