Center for Transportation Studies, North Dakota State University

Center for Transportation Studies Building

A university campus building dedicated to transportation is critically important to mobility in the Upper Great Plains region and the United States. A transportation building would:

  • Serve as a symbol to show that transportation is equal in its importance to our socio-economic system as other disciplines with dedicated buildings such as engineering, the sciences, the arts, agriculture, etc.
  • Provide a physical representation of the recognition of transportation as an accepted interdisciplinary academic field.
  • Provide a home for developing the intellectual capital necessary to plan, construct and operate the transportation systems of the 21st century.

The colleges and departments on a typical college campus reflect what society believes to be the most important elements of civilization: the arts, agriculture, the sciences, mathematics, engineering, business, education, pharmacy, etc. Although all of these elements are transportation dependent, transportation is not well-represented within the ivy-covered walls of academia. A university building dedicated to transportation would raise awareness of the importance of mobility as a key component of society alongside the sciences, engineering and the arts.

Need for professionals

In a 2003 study, the Transportation Research Board estimated that about 50 percent of the state transportation agency workforce across the nation would be eligible to retire within the next 10 years. The report notes that the rapid pace or technological change, continued globalization and the aging of the population will impact the transportation work force. At the same time, competition from other sectors of the global economy will make it difficult to maintain the workforce in transportation. It can be expected that this shortage of trained professionals will be acute in the Upper Great Plains region. With demands on the transportation system increasing, funding for infrastructure falling short and a potential shortage of trained professionals in transportation, the development of the CTS is critical.

Need for intellectual capital

Technology is dramatically changing the way mobility needs of people and freight are addressed. Communication and transportation are increasingly integrated to improve efficiency, competitiveness, safety and livability. New techniques are needed to address infrastructure needs to keep the nation's transportation system in a state of good repair. The academic setting, with its blend of teaching, research and outreach is the ideal place to test new technology and ideas and their applications in transportation. Increasing the research capacity of universities like NDSU by educating new researchers, enhancing laboratory and field research capabilities and creating an atmosphere of innovation and creativity can only have positive implications for the transportation systems of the future.


A Center for Transportation Studies building at NDSU would house the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, one of the premier university transportation centers in the United States. Currently, the UGPTI has more than 50 staff members and about 50 students (graduate and undergraduate) active in 10 programs located in three buildings.

A Center for Transportation Studies building would consolidate transportation-related programs in a single building, improving the efficiencies of UGPTI programs, enhancing collaboration among staff, and providing room for growth of its dynamic research, education and outreach programs.

The building would enhance the viability of several initiatives under development:

  • NDSU School of Transportation
  • Tracking, Sensing, Communications Test Bed
  • RFID Technology Initiative
  • Transportation Security and Counterterrorism Center
  • Transportation and Economic Development University Center
  • Rural and Agricultural University Transportation Center Program

The Proposed Building

The 55,000 square-foot Center for Transportation Studies will house the Fargo-Moorhead Traffic Operations Center and the UGPTI. The building will be located on a prominent site just off 12th Ave. North, the primary gateway into the campus. Because the CTS will become NDSU's new visitor's center, a strong visual axis is important. The curved facades of the building and leaning walls suggest movement and are metaphors for transportation. Cladding materials such as blue fiber-cement panels with exposed fasteners are reminiscent of road signs or the rivets on boats and trains. On the interior, linear ceiling lights appear to be the headlights of passing automobiles, and an enclosed walkway that passes through the museum appears to take the shape of a subway car.

The building will include laboratories teaching and research, classrooms for traditional and distance education teaching, office space for staff and graduate students, the F-M traffic operations center, and a transportation museum.


Approximately $16,000,000.

Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute