An Inside View of TRB 2012 from KAI's Erin Ferguson

January 13, 2012

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) will kick off their Annual Meeting in Washington DC on Jan 22nd. This one-of-a-kind meeting attracts more than 11,000 transportation professionals from around the globe and this year marks the 91st anniversary of the event. The TRB Annual Meeting program covers all transportation modes, with more than 4,000 presentations in nearly 650 sessions and workshops addressing topics of interest to all attendees—policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions. A number of sessions and workshops will address the spotlight theme for 2012: Transportation: Putting Innovation and People to Work.

Transportation professionals from Kittelson & Associates, Inc. have a long history of participation at the annual conference and the firm plans to send a variety of team members again this year. As a way to provide more insight to TRB, Streetwise interviewed several first-time and veteran TRB attendees from KAI. The following is the first of these interviews which will continue daily as we lead up to the start of TRB.

For Erin Ferguson, the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting is an invaluable source of knowledge and inspiration. And what she has contributed and gleaned from the international event has evolved with her career.

The 2012 meeting will be Ferguson’s sixth. This year, Ferguson, an engineer and one of the leaders of Kittelson & Associates, Inc.’s (KAI) safety practice, will collaborate with KAI associate engineer Hermanus Steyn on a poster session to discuss the firm’s application of safety research. The presentation will focus on a well-traveled Portland-area roadway, the subject of a KAI evaluation of existing conditions, past crashes and potential improvements using methodologies in the Highway Safety Manual.

Also this year, Ferguson, in her role as a young member of the TRB’s Highway Safety Performance Committee, will participate in a presentation by a subgroup about the relatively new committee’s strategic vision and goals. The presentation will also help generate discussion about the committee’s objectives going forward.

While safety has always been a focus of transportation system design and engineering, practitioners and jurisdictions increasingly are taking a more proactive approach through safety conscious planning and applying innovative tools to quantify the safety attributes of design features, Ferguson said.

“It’s an exciting time,” she said. “Data and methodologies are being applied in new settings and in new ways to better predict safety so that crashes can be avoided.”

Ferguson described the TRB annual meetings as unique and inspiring. The first couple meetings she attended, starting in 2006, were early in her career and helped fuel an interest in research. A couple years ago, she presented research she was conducting as a graduate student on how public agencies could reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality through transportation system improvements.

“It was nice in the first few years to be listening and learning, and then to have the experience of contributing,” Ferguson said, adding that the event also offers an invaluable opportunity to make connections and build camaraderie with colleagues.

“So many bright professionals who are technical leaders in a wide variety of fields are there. You learn a lot. It’s also a chance to meet new people and reconnect with others. Everybody gets pulled into the energy and momentum.”

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