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New center to prepare national transportation for extreme weather, climate change

September 24, 2013

Photo: a freeway full of traffic

The grant will allow UC Davis to mobilize a network of universities that addresses climate change and environmental sustainability transportation.

The University of California, Davis, has been selected in a national competition this week to lead a two-year, $11.2 million research consortium for the U.S. Department of Transportation, focused on addressing and preparing for climate change.

Based at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, the new National Center for Sustainable Transportation will help the federal agency reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from passenger and freight travel that contribute to climate change, and also prepare U.S. transportation infrastructure for the extreme weather that climate change is expected to produce.

"The United States has sharply reduced many of the transportation sector's most damaging environmental impacts on air, water, natural ecosystems and human health," said UC Davis professor of environmental science and policy Susan Handy, director of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. "However, one major impact that hasn't received enough attention is climate change, which is a game changer. Fortunately, almost all strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation also improve economic efficiency, energy security, social equity, livability and health."

The other consortium members are UC Riverside; University of Southern California; California State University, Long Beach; University of Vermont; and Georgia Institute of Technology.

The center will:

  • Mobilize a network of universities to generate knowledge and tools that address climate change and environmental sustainability in transportation;
  • Design and evaluate real-world strategies that contribute to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts; and
  • Deliver knowledge and tools to state transportation departments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and local governments to support implementation of these real-world strategies.

"The goal of the national center is to transform the transportation system to improve environmental sustainability nationwide," said Dan Sperling, director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and the new national center's executive director. "We aim to provide leadership that produces meaningful action by mobilizing innovative research teams and partnering with influential stakeholders."

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation will receive $5.6 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $5.6 million in matching funds from state, regional and local agencies to support its research. Caltrans, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District have committed to providing matching funds for projects at UC Davis, USC, CSULB and UC Riverside; Georgia Department of Transportation has agreed to match projects at Georgia Tech.

U.S. Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, congratulated UC Davis on the grant. "UC Davis is a recognized leader in cutting edge research to reduce our impact on climate change," he said in a statement. "This is the second big federal grant in a week for such research at UC Davis, following the $1.5 million ARPA-E grant to convert ethylene to a liquid fuel, and I couldn't be happier for the researchers, administrators and students involved."

About ITS-Davis

The Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis (ITS-Davis) is the leading university center in the world on sustainable transportation. It is home to more than 60 affiliated faculty and researchers, 120 graduate students, and a budget of $12 million. We are partnering with government, industry and non-governmental organizations to inform policy making and business decisions, and advance public discourse on key transportation, energy and environmental issues.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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