|ENGINEERING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT|
ENGINEERING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Helping motorists take their turn
Statistics show that four-lane undivided roadways are generally the most unsafe of all roadways. The typical solution? Widen the highway and add a median. Now, thanks to analysis by Assistant Professor Keith Knapp (joint appointment with Civil & Environmental Engineering), statistics also show that reducing roadways from four lanes to three can result in acceptable mobility and increased safety but also reduced costs and no need to encroach on neighboring land.
The three-lane alternative includes one lane in each direction and a two-way, left-turn lane. Knapp has been researching the safety and operational impacts of conversion projects completed throughout the United States. Such conversions cannot be applied as an across-the-board approach without considering a variety of factors pertaining to operational and safety issues and community goals. He has written several papers and developed guidelines that identify factors that should be considered before such "context-sensitive" design decisions are made.
His investigation of the three-lane alternative indicates that safety at conversion locations has increased while maintaining the level of operational service. The sites reviewed experienced a relatively dramatic reduction in excessive speeding and total crashes. Knapp's simulation analyses show only a slight decrease in "through" vehicle average arterial speed for a large range of peak-hour volumes, access densities, and access-point left-turn volumes.
The continuing education courses Knapp offers for EPD reflect these research interests. Urban Street Design, Traffic Engineering Fundamentals, Highway Safety, Solving Neighborhood Traffic Problems, and other courses are bringing this practical information to traffic engineers nationwide.
Creating a culture of learning
Large high schools can be like crowded, impersonal cities where people go about their daily business avoiding contact with the unfamiliar. A junior strong in math might never interact with a freshman weak in the subject in spite of research that shows students learn better in small communities that mix age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds and academic skills. Many big schools are now exploring ways to restructure classroom space and dynamics to create the atmosphere and benefits to learning of a smaller school.
As part of a U.S. Department of Education three-year grant program, architect and Assistant Professor Jeffery Lackney is helping Madison's Memorial High School turn its student body into a community, grouping students randomly into 100 "backyards," each served by a teacher. The backyards link together to form blocks, complete with group projects and elected councils; blocks link into neighborhoods, each with its own 2,000-square-foot community center.
Lackney, who is interested in the sociological effects of space, has been involved in the design of the community centers. "Physical space can encourage pro-social behaviors, such as extracurricular activities and leadership opportunities," he says. "As a result, you can improve a culture through architectural design."
To help create a better learning climate, Lackney helped four groups of students brainstorm how the community centers should be designed. He says the experiment helped students work together and take ownership of their environment. And, "when students take more control of their education," he says, "they become more empowered in learning."
School administrators approved and are implementing some of the students' designs. Lackney plans to study how the centers, students and culture evolve together.
A strong economy through modern rail
American prosperity depends on an infrastructure that can efficiently transport goods and services to market. Railroads, whether passenger or freight, urban or cross country, offer a solution to congested highways and skyways. Professor Emeritus C. Allen Wortley is offering several new courses in engineering modern railroad systems. Fundamentals of Railroad Engineering is the first in a series of courses designed to help consultants, transportation engineers, railroad managers, contractors, suppliers, and state and federal officials build a working knowledge of freight, intercity passenger and urban rail transit systems. Participants learn many of today's do's and don'ts for planning and laying out modern, competitive, reliable and safe railroads.
Other courses in the series include Railroad Track Maintenance for Branch Line, Regional and Industrial Railroads; and Railroad-Highway Crossings, a practical course focusing on planning, design and construction of crossings to improve safety and eliminate accidents.