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Public Roads - Winter 2024

Winter 2024
Issue No:
Vol. 87 No. 4
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Partnering with Minority Serving Institutions to Advance 21st Century Transportation Systems in the United States

by David Zack Magallanez
A woman, left, and a man, right, examine a drone sitting on a table in a laboratory. Image Source: © Gorodenkoff /
Collaboration and partnership leads to innovation, advances in research, and forward-thinking transportation systems.

Innovation is the driving force behind the advancement of transportation systems in the 21st century. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of transportation in the United States by enhancing the safety and performance of the Nation’s transportation system through research and the acceleration of innovative technologies and practices ( One powerful avenue for achieving these goals is by partnering with minority serving institutions (MSIs) from around the Nation. This article highlights the importance of FHWA’s collaboration with MSIs to tap into the talents of students and faculty to help advance research and development in transportation systems while aligning with the agency’s goals of its commitment to safety, efficiency, and sustainability.

By partnering with MSIs, FHWA gains access to a diverse range of perspectives, innovative ideas, and cutting-edge research. Faculty, staff, and students at MSIs bring unique insights and expertise to the table. Collaborating with MSIs will enable the agency to explore novel approaches, technologies, and practices that can revolutionize transportation systems and enhance safety and performance. A unique example of an MSI driving innovation in transportation is California State Polytechnic University–Pomona. It recently landed a $40 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to fund the new Center for Understanding Future Travel Behavior and Demand, a research center focusing on understanding future transportation needs and preferences. By conducting research in this area, the university can contribute to evidence-based decisionmaking at the local, State, and Federal levels ( The insights gained through this research will help inform the development of more efficient, sustainable, and accessible transportation systems that cater to the diverse needs of communities, including minority populations.

Compilation. A woman looks away from images of computer data and a digital globe. Image Source: © metamorworks /
The application of data and advancements in technology benefit national and global transportation futures.

Research serves as the backbone of transportation innovation. FHWA, through partnerships with MSIs, can tap into their research capabilities and facilities. These institutions are known for their excellence in inquiry and have a wealth of expertise in fields relevant to transportation, such as engineering, data analytics, urban planning, sustainable practices, and much more. By collaborating with MSIs, FHWA can accelerate research and development activities, driving the advancement of new technologies, materials, and methodologies. This, in turn, translates into tangible benefits for transportation systems, including improved safety, enhanced efficiency, and reduced environmental impact. In addition, MSIs often have strong connections with local communities and residents, industry partners, and government agencies ( This contextual understanding is invaluable when conducting transportation research as it enables MSIs to address real-world problems and develop solutions that are relevant and meaningful to the local community.

By forging strong partnerships with MSIs, FHWA embraces a pivotal moment to take the lead in transforming the transportation sector into a beacon of equity, sustainability, and innovation. These collaborations send an unequivocal message of the agency’s resolute commitment to driving positive change and advancing social and economic justice. By aligning with broader efforts to address inequities, promote diversity, foster innovation, leverage community connections, and cultivate a diverse workforce, FHWA charts a course toward a transportation future that serves every American and leaves no one behind. Together, we embark on this transformative journey, reshaping the very fabric of transportation in the pursuit of a more inclusive and prosperous tomorrow.

David Zack Magallanez is a graduate student at the University of Texas at San Antonio in San Antonio, TX. David is currently studying urban and regional planning and will graduate in 2025.

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