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Larson Institute receives $6 million federal grant

Posted on Nov 13, 2012
Larson Institute receives $6 million federal grant

CBS News "Sunday Morning" filmed a segment on bus safety in April at the Larson Institute, which aired Sept. 2.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The work of the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State has been recognized with a $6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to improve facilities and continue operating a rigorous analysis and testing program for new model buses.

All new transit bus models destined for production must first undergo analysis at the Larson Institute’s Bus Research and Testing Center for safety, structural integrity and durability; reliability, performance, and fuel economy; noise; and emissions. Since its inception, the center has examined more than 400 different makes and models and put them through the paces at the institute’s test track facility.

As a result, more than 8,000 vehicle defects -- large and small -- have been discovered, providing invaluable feedback to manufacturers before new model vehicles reach the production phase. Bus manufacturers use the information provided by the testing program to improve the quality, reliability and safety of new model transit buses. This saves money not only for the manufacturers and bus operators, but also for the American taxpayer, since major and minor deficiencies can be corrected before the bus model is available for purchase by municipalities.

Two key facilities associated with this work are the center’s advanced emissions analysis laboratory and the Larson Institute’s test track facility, where buses navigate potholes, chatter bumps and miles of roadway 24 hours a day, five days a week to evaluate structural durability and overall performance.

“This funding allows us to maintain and upgrade our state-of-the-art emissions testing facilities in top condition for vehicle testing,” said Suresh Iyer, a research associate at the center. The center currently tests for emissions of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particulates.

“This effort translates to a significant reduction in the impact of these emissions on our environment,” he said.

The funds will also help the center upgrade other test equipment and perform needed repairs on the test track, including pavement remediation. “The night and day use of the test track for vehicle maneuvering subjects the road surfaces to a high degree of wear, so it’s important to keep all areas of the facility in good operating condition,” said David Klinikowski, the center’s director.

The Bus Research and Testing Center employs 40 full-time staff distributed over three locations in Pennsylvania (Altoona, State College and University Park). The grant funds will support those positions, in addition to upgrading equipment and facilities, and maintaining the test track facility.