Planning prof leads students to win in Green Mobility Challenge

Ken Joh

Ken Joh
assistant professor,
urban planning

Graduate engineering students at Texas A&M advised by Ken Joh, assistant professor of urban planning, earned first place and $10,000 in scholarship money in a transportation planning contest sponsored by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

In the contest, the Green Mobility Challenge, students were asked to recommend sustainable ways of constructing, operating and maintaining two proposed toll roads in Southwest Austin — the Oak Hill Expressway and the Manchaca Expressway.

Doctoral civil engineering students Lisa Larsen and Ben Sperry, masters’ civil engineering students Devin Moore, Scott Nelson and Jose Soto are enrolled in Joh’s fall 2011 public transportation class. The team also included Josh Rutenberg of Rice University. The team’s proposals won first place in the contests for both expressways.

Larsen and Nelson presented their team’s proposals at the awards event in Austin Nov. 15 before a panel of policymakers and transportation officials. 

Among the students’ recommendations:

  • moveable concrete barriers to change inbound-outbound lane assignments based on traffic patterns to ease congestion;
  • inclusion of bike lanes and park and ride facilities;
  • partnerships with property owners to create community parkland corridors and green spaces;
  • sound absorbing walls, and
  • using underpasses as canvases for local artists.

Also included in the students’ many recommendations were stormwater management strategies, measures to reduce paving emissions and solar-powered LED streetlights and toll booths.

“The choice of highway projects for the contest — the Texas 45 Southwest and U.S. 290 West tollways — was not a coincidence,” wrote Ben Wear in the Austin American-Statesman’s Nov. 20 edition in an article about the competition. “Environmental activists have successfully resisted construction of those highways for more than a decade.”

A mobility authority spokesman told Wear the students’ ideas will be evaluated for their feasibility and would ultimately have to be cleared by environmental regulators before they are employed when the projects are built.

posted December 1, 2011