The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Transportation Engineering and Science Program

Research Areas

Faculty, students and staff are involved in conducting innovation-based research in the following core areas: Transportation operations (especially intelligent transportation systems), sustainable transportation, safety, and energy/environment. These research areas are discussed in more detail below.

Sustainable Transportation Covering Energy and Environment

A broader umbrella of sustainable transportation is attractive. This cuts across several disciplines that include land use, alternative transportation modes and how they affect environment and health. Transportation faculty collaborates with colleagues in the environmental engineering area and colleagues at ORNL. Potential research areas include: 1) how can changes in transportation technologies influence emissions and energy consumption; and 2) planning for mitigation strategies to reduce environmental and energy impacts.

Achieving a sustainable transportation system is likely to require a large-scale transition from a petroleum-based system to one based on low-carbon and renewable energy sources. Such a transition has important implications for vehicle technologies and manufacturing, the energy supply chain and refueling infrastructure, and also for public policy.

Relevant journal associated with this area of expertise is: International Journal of Sustainable Transportation (Associate Editor, Dr. Khattak).

Relevant center where TESP faculty are/were involved: TranLIVE National University Transportation Center

Transportation Operations

Transportation operations involve examining how to efficiently manage traffic flow on the surface transportation system. This is a key area of focus and encompasses several sub-specialties. These include methods (e.g., simulation, modeling, and visualization) and application areas (e.g., intelligent transportation systems). There are interesting questions that we will attempt to answer, depending on national and international considerations. A sample of questions is: How can we deal with highly uncertain travel conditions created by traffic incidents? What integrated solutions might bear on traffic congestion problems? How do people access, acquire and respond to dynamic travel information and how can we improve the quality of information? What are the travel behavior consequences of advanced traveler information systems and intelligent transportation systems? How can we design and plan for effective travel information systems?

Relevant journal associated with this area of expertise is: Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems (Editor, Dr. Khattak)

Transportation Safety

Given the high costs and associated crashes and resulting injuries, safety is a key area of focus of CTR and CEE has faculty members who are experts in the safety area. The award of Southeastern Transportation Center in 2013 provides an opportunity to conduct research in this area and also support graduate students and service activities. TESP faculty works with CTR staff in enhancing safety. Areas of interest include 1) safety issues associated with driver, vehicles and roadways, 2) technologies that improve safety; and 3) safety in alternative modes, e.g., rail, public transit, pedestrian, and bicycles, 4) creating a data repository for safety data and connecting it with other databases, e.g., health, travel behavior, and time use (referred to as "big data" for safety improvements), 5) procedures for development of Highway Safety Manual, 6) simulating safe designs, and 7) exploring the role of socio-demographics in safety.

Relevant journal associated with this area of expertise is: Journal of Safety and Security (Editor, Dr. Richards).

Relevant center with Safety theme: Southeastern Transportation Center.

Transportation Planning

Planning for transportation systems involves both qualitative and quantitative approaches and CTR has substantial expertise in this area. The research issues deal with better anticipation of travel patterns and how they might be affected by technological change. There are several interesting research questions that include: How can transportation plans incorporate land development impacts? What are the impacts of transit on mobility, congestion and land use? How does transportation contribute to economic development? What is the role of teamwork and technical modeling in improving the transportation planning processes? Can we reduce traffic congestion by developing innovative multi-modal systems?


TESP faculty supports CTR in conducting research on freight movements, especially in the area of freight carried by rail. Given that CTR is involved in NURail a national UTC, TESP faculty symbiotically participates in the research and educational activities. Examples of where TESP faculty help include 1) safety on rail track crossings, 2) factors affecting truck safety and truck-car collisions, 3) policy, incentives, and practices to improve trucking safety and performance.

Relevant center with Freight theme: NURail national University Transportation Center.


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Big Orange. Big Ideas.

Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System