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Note: In advance of the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting, the biggest forum on the transportation research calendar, OTREC.us is profiling some of the researchers who will present their work.

In a session titled "Living Within the Right-of-Way: New Address for the Homeless," OTREC researcher Andrée Tremoulet will give a lectern presentation about her research into homelessness.

Encampments of homeless individuals and families living in state department of transportation rights of way often pose a unique challenge for DOT staff responsible for maintaining the public land.

The solution, as described in Tremoulet's report, is as complex and multifaceted as the problem.

In cases where urban campers need to be relocated, for the process to be humane and successful Tremoulet stresses that it must be achieved through a cooperative effort between community orgnizations.

She advocates using a "push/pull" method, combining the "push" of law enforcement to clear the public land with the "pull" of assistance and housing programs to give homeless individuals direction, and a place to go.

The most important thing to remember, she says, is that no situation is alike and every set of circumstances will require a unique, tailored approach.

Following the publication of this OTREC project about a homeless relocation effort in...

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OTREC researchers dedicated some time to helping Department of Transportation staff members face a problem that isn’t strictly part of their job description: how best to deal with homeless individuals and households living in DOT rights-of-way and rest areas.
 
As owners of some of the largest stretches of public land, DOTs have to maintain the land for public use, but may lack resources to address the social welfare aspects of the stewardship of public land.
 
Homeless individuals and families sometimes seek shelter in rest areas, drawn to the facilities available there. When an established homeless encampment begins to interfere with the rest area’s intended function or threaten the safety of its users, the state DOT may need to intervene.
 
In 2010, the Baldock Restoration Group relocated 37 homeless households from the Baldock Rest Area near Wilsonville, Oregon. Due to its scale, the Baldock Rest Area relocation provided OTREC researchers with a unique opportunity to analyze the process and consider how best to respond to issues of this nature in the future.
Investigators Ellen Bassett and Andrée Tremoulet of Portland State University set out to determine the extent to which homeless...
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Six graduate students from the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at Portland State University have been awarded a national prize by the American Planning Association.

The research team, working under the name Celilo Planning Studio, won the 2013 APA student award for Application of the Planning Process.

Team members Danielle Fuchs, Michael Ahillen, Ellen Dorsey, Chloe Ritter, Sara Morrissey and Sarah Bronstein were honored for excellence in the way they carried out their project plan.

Ritter, Morrissey and Bronstein accepted the award on behalf of the group at the APA national conference this month in Chicago.

“We were very excited to attend APA and receive the award,” said Morrissey, the team’s communications director. “The conference is great to learn about what other cities are working on and get a feel of what’s going on.”

Morrissey and other members of the planning team have OTREC connections. She and Chloe Ritter worked with PSU professor Kelly Clifton on a consumer spending project, with a focus on cyclists and pedestrians. Sarah Bronstein has also worked on...

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A new OTREC research project, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation, will evaluate the effectiveness of a program to promote "ecodriving," or fuel-efficient driving.

The ODOT program seeks to help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving commercial drivers training in ecodriving practices.

Led by Portland State University’s Donald Truxillo and John MacArthur, the project was one of the OTREC “Small Starts” grant winners announced earlier this month. The researchers are working with ODOT program manager Stephanie Millar.

ODOT’s effort, rather than concentrating on individual drivers, focuses on entities with a fleet of vehicles at their disposal. Entities  such as the city of Portland, or private, commercial companies  who maintain a fleet of cars and/or trucks will be given materials to educate their employees on ecodriving. It is part of a larger effort on Oregon’s part to reduce harmful emissions and help stop global climate change.

“Long-term...

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OTREC has announced eight winners of the “Small Starts” grant program, which launched last December. These grants, made available through a new OTREC initiative, were intended to fund small projects related to transportation and community development. Any eligible professor at Portland State University, Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, or the Oregon Institute of Technology was invited to apply for a grant.

Priority was given to tenure-track faculty who are untenured, and faculty who have not received an OTREC grant in the past. The Small Starts program was conceived for the benefit of researchers who want the chance to undertake a small project that supports innovations in sustainable transportation through advanced technology, integration of land use and transportation, and healthy communities.

A total of $60,000 was available to be awarded; with no individual award larger than $10,000.

Interested faculty turned in their proposals by January 31, 2013. Here are the winners:

  • Burkan Isgor, Oregon State University:

“Cracking Susceptibility of Concrete Made with Recycled Concrete Aggregates”

  • Donald Truxillo, Portland State University, partnered with ODOT:

“Evaluation of ODOT's Ecodriving Program”

  • Bob Bass, Portland State University, partnered with Drive Oregon:

“Impacts of Electric Vehicle Charging on Electric Power Distribution Systems “

  • Nancy Cheng,...
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Freight transportation is an important part of Oregon’s economy. Helping the statewide freight-transport system run more efficiently means better understanding the movements of trucks on the highways. By monitoring the progress of individual trucks, the Oregon Department of Transportation can obtain valuable performance metrics such as travel time, travel delays, and origin-destination flows. This information can help identify slow passages or bottlenecks in the highway system.

Tracking individual trucks, however, can be problematic. To follow the movements of a truck on the freeway, typical methods might include putting in automatic vehicle identification (AVI) tags, or acquiring a license-plate-recognition system to be used at checkpoints. For ODOT, this could mean purchasing expensive new equipment. Moreover, these tracking methods can raise privacy concerns.

In an OTREC-sponsored research project, Portland State University’s Chris Monsere looked into alternative methods for obtaining those helpful freight metrics without installing tracking units in every single truck. The details of Phase 2 of the project, which expand upon and further refine the results of Phase 1, can be found here. For more information, download the OTREC final report: Exploratory Methods for Truck Re-identification in a...

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The Oregon Department of Transportation, like DOTs in most other states, has an ongoing struggle to maintain public highways against earth movements such as erosion, earthquakes and landslides. An earthquake or landslide can close down a road for days, while highway workers fight to keep supply lines open and repair the damage.

In Oregon, particularly along the coastal roads, these natural processes are a constant threat to transportation infrastructure. The damage caused by gradual erosion is typically not detectable until there is a landslide or other disaster, costing the state considerable time and money to repair. New technology has the potential to change this. Many landslides, in fact, show some form of movement prior to catastrophic failure. A team of researchers, led by Michael J. Olsen of Oregon State University and sponsored by a research grant from OTREC, set out to improve upon the methods that ODOT uses to detect and prevent structural threats. 

Olsen details his findings in an OTREC final report. Click here for more on the project, or download the final report.

The research centers on a three-dimensional remote sensing technology known as LiDAR. Short for Light Detection...

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Portland State University inducted graduate student Kristina Currans into the Denice Dee Denton Women Engineers Hall of Fame in a ceremony Nov. 15. Currans is the second transportation engineering student to win the student award.

Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, took the Outstanding Female Engineer honors.

Currans’ boundless enthusiasm and dedication to her work quickly become apparent to anyone who works with her, said Kelly Clifton, an associate professor of civil engineering and director of the Oregon Modeling Collaborative. “I’ve never met someone able to manage so many things,” said Clifton, who nominated Currans for the honor.

Currans works with Clifton as a part of the Oregon Modeling Collaborative and on several OTREC research projects. “She brings a tremendous amount of energy,” Clifton said.

After graduating Oregon State University with a civil engineering bachelor’s degree in 2010, Currans soon made a name for herself in transportation circles. She started her graduate coursework at Portland State and worked during academic breaks with the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Transportation Planning Analysis Unit, home to state and regional transportation models.

“For someone who had just graduated with an undergraduate degree, she completed that internship and really impressed ODOT,” Clifton said. “To do that so quickly caught everyone’s attention.”

Currans tested and worked with the Statewide Integrated...

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It’s not shocking that bridges built without thought to earthquakes wouldn’t make it through a big quake unharmed. More surprising, however, is how much damage even a relatively small earthquake would cause to Oregon’s bridges.

In an exhaustive OTREC project, researcher Peter Dusicka looked at the most common bridge types in the Oregon highway system. Those bridges weren’t just fragile, he found—they were even more fragile than other researchers and technical guidelines had suggested.

Dusicka published his preliminary findings in a draft report last year. The final report, “Bridge Damage Models for Seismic Risk Assessment of Oregon Highway Network,” is out now. Click here to download.

Most Oregon highway bridges were built before the 1980s, when designers started to consider seismic activity. Dusicka set out to see what would happen to the most common bridge type, continuous concrete multi-beam or girder, during quakes of varying degrees.

To find that out, he had to first know how the ground in the Pacific Northwest moves during and earthquake and second, model how the bridge type would react to these motions. Historical and geological evidence show a catastrophic earthquake will occur sooner or later in the region, Dusicka has said, as the Cascadia subduction zone stores up energy that...

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Although specialized equipment and vehicles make up a large portion of state transportation budgets, an OTREC research report found little consistency in how states decide to replace this equipment.

Researchers David Kim and David Porter of Oregon State University surveyed 25 state departments of transportation to determine how they made replacement decisions. Nearly all consider the age of the vehicle or piece of equipment, with many considering how much use it gets.

Around half use thresholds, such as number of miles or months in service, to identify candidates for replacement. Some consider the equipment’s repair cost or operating cost, while others rely on physical inspections. None explicitly considers greenhouse gas emissions or other environmental concerns in its replacement criteria.

Given the huge range of approaches, Kim and Porter wondered if modeling could lead to better decision-making. They ran various models against the simple approach of using equipment age as a threshold value.

As it turns out, the simple approach isn’t too bad. In fact, it does better than one complicated mathematical model and about the same as a second model.

Click here to learn more about the project and download the report.

That may...

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