On Wednesday, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured one of Morgan State University’s pioneering research facilities.
During his visit, which also included a town hall from the Center for Built Environment and School Infrastructure Studies, Buttigieg tested, among other things, Maryland’s only driving simulator that took him from the I-95 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The program is used to study things like reaction times and human-computer interaction.
The projects he tested all play a key role in what he said is the future of transportation infrastructure.
“We need to open our imaginations to what transportation even means, what public transit even means, the difference between mobility and owning a vehicle, and how these things interact with each other,” said Buttigieg.
All of the technology is being developed at the Center for Urban Mobility and Equity within the school’s National Transportation Center. Morgan State is one of 35 universities nationwide to host one of these centers, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is one of only two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to serve as “Leaders”, acting as the foundation for consortia with other area schools.
Buttigieg said President Joe Biden’s administration is looking to strengthen partnerships with HBCUs; he said Biden issued an executive order to ensure all departments do a better job of connecting with community members.
“We’re proud of things like the partnership with Morgan State, and we need to have a lot more where that came from,” Buttigieg said, “What does that actually look like? Well, first of all, it’s research funding; it’s making sure that federal funds continue to be available for the kind of work that’s being done here. And that has to grow, and it’s growing as part of this infrastructure law.
He also said that with the passage of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last year, transportation innovation is at a turning point.
“The obstacles are many, but we just knocked down one, which has no funding.”
Buttigieg said, “We are living in a time of extraordinary technological change, some of the technologies that are being developed and managed right here.”
Morgan State University President David K. Wilson told WYPR Sec. Buttigieg’s visit was special because he understands the importance of research and innovation.
“He understands fairness and Morgan State University’s central role in promoting that within the U.S. Department of Transportation. And so we’re glad that it’s not a drive-through for him, but that he’s here for a long period of time.
Wilson said the visit was just as important for Baltimore as a whole.
“This is the third or fourth time in the last few months that Sec. Buttigieg has been to Baltimore, and I think he understands all too well that Baltimore is a perfect laboratory for investing in transportation and climate, and , of course, in equity.
Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, along with Democrats from Maryland’s congressional delegation, announced more than $409 million in federal funding over the next five years to improve roads and bridges and create jobs across the state.