DOT starts building crash center

Federal Highway Administration

The Transportation Department broke ground today for a crash-test facility that will feature advanced computer programs used to simulate traffic accidents.

Two agencies within DOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are continuing a decade's worth of cooperation with The George Washington University in building the National Crash Analysis Center.

The new crash center will be located at the university's campus in Ashburn, Va., and will research accidents involving highway infrastructure. This data will support the research by the highway administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, in McLean, Va., which involves vehicle-to-vehicle crash analysis.

Computer simulation will be used to analyze crash effects on not only automobiles but also human operators in situations that involve roadside structures, such as guardrails, signposts and lighting towers.

"Our goal is to help states design safer roadsides," FHWA Deputy Administrator Richard Capka said at the groundbreaking. "The work we're doing at the center has led to better decisions about roadside hardware standards and improved highway safety."

The 80,000 square-foot crash center is scheduled for completion in 2005 and will be the nation's first full-scale indoor facility based on a university campus, according to Steven Trachtenberg, president of George Washington.

High-power parallel computers will simulate crash scenarios in a matter of hours. Integrated workstations will let researchers view and manipulate simulation data in real-time and see a virtual three-dimensional representation of an entire crash.

The crash center also will research biomechanics and highway infrastructure. The biomechanics effort will analyze crash-scene scenarios to better understand injury risk, while the infrastructure program will research the safety of roadside hardware and design safer roadside devices.

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