Texas A&M Transportation Institute

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Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI)
Agency overview
Formed 1950 (1950)
Type Agency of higher education
Jurisdiction State of Texas
Headquarters 2935 Research Parkway, College Station, Texas
30°36′7.6619″N 96°21′13.7549″W / 30.602128306°N 96.353820806°W / 30.602128306; -96.353820806
Motto Saving Lives, Time and Resources
Employees 650 (2015)
Annual budget $65.3 million (FY 2015)[1]
Agency executive
  • Dennis L. Christiansen, Ph.D., P.E., Director
Parent agency Texas A&M University System
Website tti.tamu.edu

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) in College Station, Texas is the largest transportation research agency in the United States. Created in 1950, primarily in response to the needs of the Texas Highway Department (now the Texas Department of Transportation), TTI has since broadened its focus to address all modes of transportation–highway, air, water, rail and pipeline. TTI is a state agency and a member of the Texas A&M University System. TTI’s cooperative relationship with the Texas Department of Transportation has helped the Institute develop and implement work for numerous other sponsors.

TTI researchers contribute to the growth of the transportation profession by participating in, and leading over 250 local, state and national organizations. Over 100 TTI researchers publish papers and give presentations at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting, with around 50 serving on TRB committees. Since the inception of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) in 1962, TTI has led over 70 NCHRP projects, more than any other participant in the program. TTI researchers serve as objective transportation experts, providing an important resource to local, state and national agencies and groups.

The Institute maintains a close association with the Texas A&M University Dwight Look College of Engineering, the College of Architecture, and the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, as well as other academic units within the Texas A&M University System and at other collaborating universities. Over 40 TTI researchers hold joint academic positions at Texas A&M University. TTI also plays a role in training and educating students; one-third of the staff is students.

Headquartered on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas, TTI also maintains a full-service roadside safety proving ground facility in Bryan, Texas, and has offices in Arlington, Austin, Dallas, Doha, El Paso, Galveston, Houston, Mexico City, Pecos, San Antonio, Waco, and Washington, D.C.[2] As part of its research program, TTI also operates nine formal centers of excellence.


When the Texas Highway Department (THD) was formed in 1917, it immediately began using the laboratory facilities of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (AMC). This marked the creation of a partnership that has continued to this day. Legendary State Highway Engineer DeWitt Greer, who headed the THD from 1940 to 1967, had a vision that the universities could be valuable partners in developing the finest and safest highway system in the world. Along with Gibb Gilchrist, a former engineer-director of the department and the first chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, the two formulated the concept of the cooperative research program and, with a land-grant charter to serve the people of Texas, created the formal relationship between the highway department and AMC in 1948. An early contributor to the leadership of this new cooperative research program was provided by Thomas Harris MacDonald. As the former chief of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads for 33 years, Mr. MacDonald saw the need to have a strong research program to support the effective development of the roadway system. Also important to the founders of the Texas Transportation Institute, now Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), was the charge to give graduate students the opportunity to study and work in the transportation profession. During his time as a distinguished research engineer at A&M and TTI, Mr. MacDonald laid the groundwork for the Institute’s core philosophies and future success.[3]:2

Between 1953 and 1962, the Texas Highway Department approved the construction of almost 16,000 miles of highways, bringing the state’s total system to 59,300 miles, more than any other state in the nation. Under the leadership of Fred Benson, dean of engineering at Texas A&M University and TTI’s director from 1955 to 1962, TTI’s research contributions provided valuable guidance and technology to the THD throughout this rapid expansion of both rural highways and urban freeways. Researchers developed bridge design specifications for prefabricated concrete beams and girders. They then took the research a step further by applying mass production principles to the construction, storage, and use of these structures, saving the state a tremendous amount of time and money. Much of TTI’s early research efforts focused on improving the quality and consistency of asphalt and aggregate; new testing procedures; and developing new and improved pavement materials.[3]:4 In its first decade, TTI assisted in the design, construction, operation and improvement of urban interstates. Researchers created a new standardized accident reporting form for police in cities with freeways. TTI also confirmed the need for illumination to reduce nighttime congestion and crash rates.[3]:5

By far the most important aspect of highway transportation research between 1962 and 1976 was the recognition of the importance of highway safety issues to the traveling public, the government, and the transportation community. Charles J. "Jack" Keese, an A&M civil engineering professor and TTI researcher since 1955, led TTI through this period. Under Keese, who had also worked as a traffic engineer for the city of Midland, Texas, TTI began assisting highway planners and engineers with a focused effort to improve safety for motorists, creating the concept of the "forgiving" roadside. In addition to milestone safety innovations and improvements, the Keese years marked a great expansion in the scope of TTI’s work. Researchers began analyzing and addressing more urban transportation problems, such as freeway design and operations, traffic congestion, and efficiency of emergency services. While the Institute continued to improve highway construction and maintenance methodologies, it also allocated more time and resources to studying the social, economic and environmental implications of all transportation modes. As highway construction and usage continued to increase through the 1960s, so did injury and death rates per vehicle mile, rising every year except in 1966. Some of the innovations developed at TTI in this period were breakaway sign supports, the "Texas Crash Cushion", guardrail and end treatments, railroad grade-crossing inventories, median barriers and culvert grates--all becoming a more integral part of the highway landscape moving into the 1970s.[3]:6

The most lasting legacy of Keese’s tenure is that despite a tripling of the number of vehicle miles traveled in Texas from 1965 to 1992, the number of deaths on Texas roadways each year remained virtually the same, and deaths per 100 million miles had fallen from 5.8 to 1.9. While TTI shares credit for these improvements with many other state, federal and private sources, its leadership and commitment to conducting safety experiments and quickly sharing its results with others in the field helped the Institute make a highly respected name for itself among members of the transportation community.[3]:7

By the late 1970s, it had become apparent that road builders could not count on further road construction alone to control congestion. As one traffic engineer remarked, the demand for freeways grew so substantially that some roadways were "becoming obsolete the minute that they opened." Having pioneered the use of video surveillance and television monitors in Houston and Dallas, TTI researchers continued advancing freeway and traffic operations technologies and techniques.[3]:8 TTI researchers began studying the integration of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on Texas freeways, with more emphasis given to research into expanding transit services in urban and rural areas. Advancement of more sophisticated and precise computer programs for effective traffic management continued as well, with the PASSER II technology expanding to national use into the 1980s.[3]:9

In 1991 the U.S. Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), encouraging multimodal transportation planning and collaboration. Two years later, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents selected the right man for the continued job of positioning TTI as a world-class, international leader in advancing transportation research, technology transfer, and education. Under Dr. Herbert Richardson’s leadership, TTI significantly broadened its mission to include all modes of transportation. Four new national centers of excellence were won, and in 2001 the Texas Legislature established TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety, making the Institute home to nine formal centers of excellence. Richardson presided over steady growth in cutting-edge transportation research funding, bringing the operating budget to approximately $40 million and the staff to some 600 dedicated professionals and graduate students. TTI continued as a key leader in advancing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and congestion management, pavement rehabilitation strategies, sustainable transportation systems, and state-of-the art crash tests to help ensure the protection of our nation’s embassies from terrorist attacks. TTI grew from laboratory facilities housed in a remodeled veterinary diagnostic building in 1954 to numerous buildings and outdoor test facilities at the former airbase, Texas A&M University Riverside Campus. By the 1970s, TTI had also far outgrown its campus offices in the original Highway Research Center.[3]:10 Even after expanding to a newly built eight-story building built for TTI and the Texas A&M Zachry Department of Civil Engineering in 1987, the Institute’s growth and success demanded more space. Richardson succeeded in securing funds and support for a facility in the Texas A&M University Research Park. The Gibb Gilchrist Building was dedicated in 1999 and was the first building to be solely occupied by and designed for TTI’s research needs.[3]:11

When the A&M System Board of Regents selected Dr. Dennis Christiansen as agency director in late 2006, the board tapped a seasoned leader, with 35 years of experience heading various areas and initiatives within the Institute. In the six years since Christiansen became director, research expenditures increased by 30 percent and state appropriations by 28 percent. With the addition of three new research facilities and six statewide and national centers, TTI became unmatched in size, depth and breadth of its research program. A major initiative guided by Christiansen was the repositioning of TTI to expand and diversify its research portfolio. Another major initiative became to serve as a credible and objective policy resource to the Texas Legislature, addressing such issues as transportation finance, safety and mobility to support state economic competitiveness and quality of life. Other significant milestones during Christiansen’s tenure included the opening of TTI’s first-ever state headquarters building, which included additional research space, and the commercializing of TTI-developed technologies in roadside safety and physical security, freight movement and innovative data collection methods. TTI moved into its state headquarters next door to the Gibb Gilchrist Building in the Texas A&M University Research Park in 2010, the Institute’s 60th anniversary year. The three-story, 66,700-square-foot building houses a state-of-the-art Visibility Laboratory, administrative offices and research staff.[3]:12

TTI’s work in homeland security expanded with a $7 million, five-year grant to conduct tests on perimeter security devices for the U.S. State Department to protect embassies and other government buildings against terrorists. To further these efforts, TTI opened an Advanced Scanning and Modeling Laboratory at its Proving Grounds Research Facility to conduct sophisticated computersimulated crash tests.[3]:13


The director is currently Dennis Christiansen, Ph.D., P.E.[4] He is assisted by three executive associate agency directors, one associate agency director, and one assistant agency director.[5] The agency is organized into four research area groups, one interdisciplinary research group, and one business operations group.[6]

Research Areas[edit]


  • Interdisciplinary Research
  • Materials, Pavements & Constructed Facilities
    • Construction, Geotechnical & Structures
    • Materials & Pavements
  • Planning & Environment
    • Environment & Air Quality
    • Mobility
    • Planning
  • Roadside Safety & Physical Security
  • Transportation Operations
    • Research & Implementation
    • System Reliability
    • Traffic Operations & Roadway Safety


  • Accelerate Texas Center
  • Center for Alcohol and Drug Education Studies
  • Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research
  • Center for Ports & Waterways
  • Center for Railway Research
  • Center for Transportation Computational Mechanics
  • Center for Transportation Safety
  • Southwest Region University Transportation Center
  • Transportation Policy Research Center

Business Operations[edit]

  • Business Office
  • Facilities, Safety & Support Services
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing, Communications & Agency Relations
  • Network & Information Systems
  • Research Development Office



Notable research projects[edit]

ET2000 – In 1991, the TTI-patented ET2000 guardrail end treatment was developed. Over 250,000 units have been shipped throughout the United States and around the world. TxDOT and TTI received the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) 1991 Administrator’s Biennial Safety Award for their development of the ET2000.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) – GPR is a nondestructive geophysical method that "sees" underground and produces a record of subsurface features—without drilling, probing, digging, or coring. Since 1988, researchers at TTI have been developing, testing, and implementing GPR technology for TxDOT to use in its road repair and maintenance activities.

Roadway Congestion Index (RCI) – To evaluate mobility levels on Texas streets and freeways, TTI developed the RCI, which is now computed annually for over 85 major U.S. cities.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) – TTI’s ITS research has been implemented in several major Texas cities. Real-time train detection and analysis systems have expedited emergency vehicle dispatch, enhanced signal operations, and averted major accidents.

HOV Lanes and Managed Lanes – Since the 1980s, many major metropolitan areas have developed HOV or High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to help with traffic flow and provide incentives for carpooling and public transit. TTI has become known as the nation’s leader in HOV lane research. Some cities have taken the HOV lane concept one step further in the development of what’s being called Managed Lanes.

Teens in the Driver Seat – TTI has developed a peer-to-peer driving safety program unlike any safety program in the nation. Teens in the Driver Seat relies on young drivers themselves to create safety messages and then serve as the messengers to make their peers aware of the risks of teen driving.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "About TTI". Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Facilities". Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Texas A&M Transportation Institute -- over 60 years of innovation (PDF), Texas A&M Transportation Institute, retrieved 23 September 2015 
  4. ^ "Office of the Director". Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Organization Chart". Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Organization". Retrieved 23 September 2015. 

External links[edit]