Purdue Road School returns to in-person event, draws thousands of attendees
More than 2,700 transportation colleagues attended the 108th Purdue Road School and Transportation Conference & Expo on March 15-16.
Mung Chiang, Purdue executive vice president for strategic initiatives and the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, welcomed attendees and remarked how good it was to be conducting an event this size in-person, adding that the pre-pandemic Road School in March 2020 was the last time Purdue hosted a conference of this magnitude.
Purdue Road School is co-sponsored by the Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP) and Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). Important updates on pertinent transportation issues were provided, as well as sessions on topics of general interest.
As director of the JTRP, Darcy Bullock, Lyles Family Professor of Civil Engineering, is instrumental in planning the annual event and ensuring its success.
“Purdue Road School is an important activity that helps fulfill our land grant mission for practicing professionals who plan, design, build and operate our transportation infrastructure. Although we had over 18,000 contact hours during our 2021 Virtual Road School, it was particularly rewarding to see the energy of face-to-face sessions return to campus in 2022,” he said.
The March 15 Opening Session featured remarks from Michael Smith, commissioner for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). A Fireside Chat with Smith, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, Fred Cartwright, CEO/president of Conexus, and Richard Hedgecock, president of Indiana Constructors, Inc., addressed transportation initiatives and their impact on state and local economic development.
Smith spoke on Indiana’s importance as the Crossroads of America and the productive 20-year road and bridge plan that will create “communities where people want to live, work, play.”
Cartwright talked about the future of electric vehicles and opportunities to bring public agencies, academia, and automotive industries together to position Indiana’s leadership in transportation’s emerging technologies.
Winnecke shared a history of I-69 Interstate construction milestones and reflected on the economic impact that the road has had and will have in the future.
Road School offered 173 hours of technical sessions with more than 325 speakers and moderators. There were 33 posters presented during the student poster session on March 15. The North and South PMU Ballrooms featured a lineup of 52 exhibitors during both days of the event.
“Indiana is becoming the smartest crossroads of America, from autonomous trucks and electrified roads to drone imagery for infrastructure repair and real-time big data analytics for transportation efficiency,” Chiang said. “Purdue Road School is proud to deepen the partnership across academia, industry and government agencies in this annual conference of tremendous magnitude and impact.”
The event also included opportunities for hands-on activities. A Dodge Ram truck demonstrated real-time in-cab alerts for emergency vehicles during a short circuit around campus. The EASI RIDER autonomous vehicle for people with travel-limiting disabilities was demonstrated by Brad Duerstock, associate professor of practice in industrial engineering and biomedical engineering, and Brandon Pitts, assistant professor of industrial engineering. In addition, visitors to the LTAP room were able to drive a snow plow simulator.