Iowa State advances expertise for national highway research program

Shauna Hallmark, professor
Shauna Hallmark, professor

Iowa State University transportation engineering researchers build upon a national program that aims to improve highway safety and sustainability.

Four research faculty members and their student teams were recently awarded four substantial projects from the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2). SHRP 2 combines resources from the National Research Council, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to study and implement certain national highway challenges: improving highway safety, reducing congestion, and improving methods for renewing roads and bridges.

Peter Savolainen, associate professor
Peter Savolainen, associate professor

“Our main goal is to help agencies understand countermeasures that can promote safer driving, which promotes safer highways,” said Shauna Hallmark, professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering (CCEE) and director of the Iowa State University Institute for Transportation (InTrans).

The team of Hallmark and CCEE Associate Professor Omar Smadi was awarded a SHRP 2 grant to evaluate characteristics of vehicle roadway departure. Researchers will analyze roadway types where crashes and near-crashes have occurred, develop a speed prediction model, and develop a lateral position model (determining where drivers tend to position vehicle on road given certain roadway characteristics).

Another SHRP 2 grant, focused on evaluating work zone safety, went to Hallmark, Smadi, and CCEE Associate Professor Anuj Sharma. This team will analyze safety-critical events, develop a model that shows how drivers react to work zones, and develop a speed prediction model comparing driver speeds and posted work zone speed limits.

Anuj Sharma, associate professor
Anuj Sharma, associate professor

Hallmark, Smadi, and CCEE Associate Professor Peter Savolainen won a SHRP 2 grant that focuses on driver behavior at rural intersections. InTrans Associate Scientist Nicole Oneyear and graduate students will also contribute to the study. Researchers will consider drivers at intersections controlled by stop signs, yield signs, overhead flashing lights, and rumble strips on the approach to intersections. “We will look at driver stopping and accelerating behaviors as well as crashes within these rural environments,” Hallmark said.

Savolainen also led a successful SHRP 2 proposal to study interrelationships among highway speed limits, road geometry, and driver behavior. This project’s team also includes Smadi, transportation engineering master’s student Raha Hamzeie, and InTrans engineer Skylar Knickerbocker (MSCE’12).

Omar Smadi, associate professor
Omar Smadi, associate professor

“Understanding these relationships can lead to better public management of highway speeds, and therefore reducing probability of crashes,” Savolainen said.

Iowa State comprises a sizable share of SHRP 2’s highway safety and renewal projects. Read about other Iowa State-led SHRP 2 projects here.