URI names permanent director to lead its high-tech transportation center

KINGSTON, R.I., November 6, 1998–The University of Rhode Island has named Daniel W. Urish, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering at URI for the past two decades, to lead the University’s new Transportation Center for Research and Education. Urish, of Wickford, directs the center that was recently awarded nearly $12 million over six years from the U.S. Department of Transportation. With a $12 million matching requirement, the total program amount is $24 million. As the first permanent director of the center, Urish succeeds Raymond M. Wright, URI chairman and professor of civil and environmental engineering, who served as interim director during the grant application process. Through legislation approved in the spring, the federal government established 23 new university transportation centers, in addition to the 10 existing centers. URI is one of only six schools nationwide to receive the maximum funding level. “This is probably one of the most exciting things to happen in 100 years at the University,” Urish said. “It allows us here at URI and the state to enter the 21st Century full speed ahead. Urish knows plenty about moving full speed ahead after serving 21 years in the U.S. Navy. Urish began his career as an engineer in Rhode Island in the 1960s, as a Davisville Navy Seabee. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Urish was responsible for the design and construction of base defenses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and in the early days of Vietnam, he developed the water supply system for the Allied Forces throughout South Vietnam. In the 1970s, he led a battalion of Seabees to transform the jungle covered atoll of Diego Garcia into a major U.S. Naval base, for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit. In 1975, he retired from the Navy and earned the first Ph.D. awarded in civil and environmental engineering at URI. In addition to educating hundreds of civil engineers for the state over the past 20 years, his research work has ranged from sewer overflow investigations in Providence to ecosystem studies in the mangrove swamps of Belize for the Smithsonian Institute. He is the director of the URI Engineering Research and Training Center, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. Since transportation systems have such an impact on nearly every aspect of contemporary life, including major impacts on the environment, Urish is a perfect choice for the job, according to Thomas J. Kim, dean of URI’s College of Engineering. “Dan understands that efficient transportation systems can go a long way toward reducing pollution caused by clogged intersections, miles of tie-ups on interstate highways and accidents that can result in hazardous waste spills,” Kim said. “He also brings his skill and enthusiasm to a project that will join University faculty members, Rhode Island Department of Transportation officials and managers and business leaders to help develop coordinated transportation systems for the 21st Century.” The theme of the URI center’s activities will be “Advanced Transportation Infrastructure and Systems.” It will focus on developing and enhancing transportation research, education and outreach at the state, regional, national and international levels. “What makes our center unique from the others is our strong educational component,” said Urish, who was voted 1994 Engineer of the Year by the Rhode Island Society of Professional Engineers. A critical element in the center is the partnership with the state Department of Transportation. URI will link a satellite Transportation Operations Center with the RIDOT’s center to gather up-to-the-second data on a variety of transportation problems. Using sensors and video technology, URI researchers will be able to research traffic patterns during accidents and high volume periods, pollution levels and pavement performance. URI students will work at the URI Transportation Operations Center and in the field conducting research on real transportation problems as they happen and as they affect the state and its communities. “The objective is that this be applied science, and that the findings be released in a form that makes them readily usable,” said Urish who in the last five years was principal or co-principal investigator on 28 research projects totaling $3 million. “Getting this center together is a fantastic challenge, but a fantastic privilege for me,” he said. “From the standpoint of engineering at URI, this is once in a lifetime.” -xxx- For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116