The Center for Cooperative Transportation Research will house millions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art equipment for transportation-related research such as dynamometers, flywheel test labs, and structures testing equipment. It would provide laboratories to test new transportation concepts and technologies to benefit the Southeast's growing transportation industry as well as to serve the needs of government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the military.
The center is a cooperative effort among Lockheed Martin research facilities in Oak Ridge, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and the Development Corporation of Knox County. It is proposed for a site on the Pellissippi Parkway, a thoroughfare between the cities of Oak Ridge and Knoxville with adjoining land that has been set aside for high-tech industries. The site would be equally convenient to the Oak Ridge complex, the university, and the Knoxville airport.
Bob Honea, director of the Oak Ridge Transportation Technology Center, says, "The facility will resemble ORNL's High Temperature Materials Laboratory in that it would pull together experts from industry, academia, and government research facilities to tackle transportation problems. There are already millions of dollars of transportation research being conducted between the university and Oak Ridge. This new center would serve as a catalyst both to showcase the existing capabilities as well as to develop new capabilities and talents.
"Right now, there isn't a jointly operated research center devoted to transportation like this anywhere in the country. This kind of facility will help accelerate advances in transportation research as it serves the regional interests of the Southeast. We expect that in addition to serving the researchers' needs for new facilities, it will also serve the needs of the local industry by providing a new user center with unique facilities."
Supporters of the center hope it will attract not only guest researchers, but also interested companies to the area. Tennessee already leads the Southeast in bringing in new assembly plants: a Nissan plant in Smyrna, a Saturn plant in Spring Hill, and a Peterbilt truck facility in Madison. According to the Federal Reserve, Tennessee is the only state in the Southeast that surpasses the national average of 4.1% automobile manufacturing employment. With its figure of 6%, Tennessee ranks behind only Michigan and Ohio nationally in automobile manufacturing employment.
In addition to the center, more industrial interest in the region should be stimulated by the presence of several automobile manufacturers and suppliers, the Oak Ridge Centers for Manufacturing Technology (which is developing processes for efficiently manufacturing cars), and ORNL's High Temperature Materials Laboratory (which is helping to develop materials for efficient engines). One of every seven manufacturing jobs in the United States is related to the automobile industry: Oak Ridge's new focus on transportation technology could help draw more manufacturing jobs to the region.
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