CORVALLIS, Ore. - Four Oregon universities will share in a recent $1.56 million grant to create a National University Transportation Center in Oregon, a major step in addressing critical transportation issues across the state.

The partnership of Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, Portland State University and the Oregon Institute of Technology will coordinate interdisciplinary research and work on such topics as bridge evaluation and repair, intelligent transportation systems, fuel efficient vehicle deployment and other topics.

"This is really going to help the state of Oregon; it gives us one of the most comprehensive types of transportation research centers in the nation," said Chris Higgins, a professor of civil engineering and director of the Kiewit Center for Infrastructure and Transportation at OSU. "It should help us attract other grants, improve graduate education, join forces among the state's leading research universities and address some difficult transportation issues facing our state and country."

Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio was instrumental in obtaining this funding, Higgins said, which is provided through the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funds must be matched dollar-for-dollar with non-federal funds, and altogether the university centers will receive up to $16 million for research over a five-year period.

This program was created in 1988 to meet the nation's need for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation systems, combining research, education and technology transfer efforts.

Oregon faces some major transportation issues, including record-high truck traffic on Interstate 5 and a costly bridge repair and replacement problem. The new center will be headquartered at Portland State University.

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Chris Higgins,