When NTC was formed in 2006, it established a foundation marked by commitment to collaboration and continuing the tradition of excellence established by UNL's College of Engineering. NTC would likely not exist if not for its partnership with the Nebraska Department of Roads, which has supported transportation research at UNL since the 1970s. With this funding base, the University of Nebraska built several highly successful research programs over the years, including the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF), Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC), and the Center for Infrastructure Research (CIR). In addition, UNL became very active in railroad research with both the Federal Railroad Administration and support from rail industry partners.
In recognition of the successful transportation research programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the strong relationship between NDOR and NU, the director of NDOR proposed creating a university-based transportation center. This center would integrate all facets of transportation research, education and outreach to create a multi-disciplinary transportation program that could better address the research needs of the state of Nebraska, the region, and the United States. In response to this request, a proposal for the NTC was developed in the spring of 2006. The proposal, with full support from Dr. Prem Paul, UNL's Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies, was accepted by the NU Board of Regents in April 2006.
While civil engineering is a particular institutional strength of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, collaboration with other disciplines has become essential to fully address the needs of transportation research. The Nebraska Safety Center (NSC) was created at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1978. The NSC has developed many statewide driver safety training programs and features a driving range that can be used in both training and driver behavior research.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha has developed nationally recognized programs in aviation and public administration that have excelled in several areas of transportation research and education. Similarly, the University of Nebraska Medical Center has developed major programs in health education, rural health, traffic injury prevention and acute treatment programs that have strong transportation components.
In 2010, NTC moved from Nebraska Hall to the historic Whittier Research Center, housed in an 84-year-old landmark junior high school at 22nd and Vine Streets. After extensive modern renovations, Whittier now provides much-needed research space and creates a central hub for NTC's many projects and related administrative support. This also positions NTC as a forerunner of the UNL Innovation Campus planned as part of the Antelope Valley Project. A major goal of the Innovation Campus is to encourage connections between university researchers, entrepreneurs and the private sector, complementing the collaborative, inventive spirit of the partnerships at NTC.