The Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM) hosted a University Transportation Center (UTC) -Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The October 21st event, sponsored by a CUTC New Initiatives grant, brought together representatives from UTCs and TCUs nationwide to discuss strategies for advancing partnerships that will help connect Native American students to transportation careers and higher education. Arlando Teller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Tribal Affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, opened with a welcome and overview of the UTC program as well as additional US DOT grant opportunities. Patrick Nemons, Director of the Office of Safety Programs with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, provided attendees with resources and strategies for obtaining federal grants, focusing on the important role minority-serving institutions play in advancing the nation’s transportation programs.
Representatives from UTCs provided attendees with an overview of their research themes and outreach and education efforts, highlighting any existing UTC-TCU partnerships. The majority of the Summit was spent on roundtable discussions with TCU attendees exploring themes related to research, training, and workforce development needs, linkages between two-year and four-year institutions, and education and outreach efforts to attract diverse students to transportation careers. The workshop wrapped up with a discussion on strategies and guiding principles for establishing mutually beneficial TCU/UTC partnerships.
Road salt, most often sodium chloride (NaCl) melts ice and is a crucial tool for winter maintenance crews around the world. However, the constant application of road salt is resulting in long-term environmental and economic impacts. To slow the negative effects of sodium chloride deicers by optimizing salt use, researchers from WTI and Washington State University completed Understanding the Salt Phase Diagram, a project sponsored by Clear Roads, a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) pooled fund. Led by Laura Fay, WTI’s Cold Climate Operations and Systems Program Manager, the team completed a literature review and laboratory investigation of the NaCl phase diagram, a graphical representation of the physical states (liquids or solid salt/ice) of salt brine depending on concentration and temperature. They distilled the information into training materials to help winter maintenance practitioners better understand the salt phase diagram and to support efficient and effective roadway deicing.
To provide visual aids for the training materials, the researchers needed to demonstrate the behavior of salt solutions in a laboratory setting. They collected video and photographic evidence of ice formation in salt brine at a range of concentrations and temperatures, verifying the familiar process of lowering ice’s freezing point with the addition of salt. They also clarified the effects of high salt concentrations on ice formation.
By synthesizing their laboratory data, the researchers created an updated NaCl phase diagram, fact sheet, and accompanying video. WTI’s Visual Communications Manager, Neil Hetherington, ensured that the phase diagram was associated with easily recognizable design elements (e.g., green = good = ice prevention). Fay noted, “Neil [Hetherington] took subject matter that was science and engineering heavy and converted it into useful, digestible information that is easily transferable. He also took time to collect quality photographs which effectively conveyed the information.”
The research has been well received. Fay has presented the training materials and findings to multiple organizations. “These materials serve as powerful education tools,” noted Fay, “and they are being used across the country.”
The full report is available on the project webpage of the WTI website. The video may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzrvOoJGH_w