OTREC scholar Sirisha Kothuri wins NITC dissertation fellowship

Sirisha Kothuri

Sirisha Kothuri, an OTREC scholar for the past two years and a current Ph.D. candidate at Portland State University, has been awarded one of NITC'S 2013 dissertation fellowships.

The $15,000 fellowship -- funded through an ISS (Institute for Sustainable Solutions) grant -- along with an $800 OTREC/NITC scholarship for the 2012-2013 academic year, will assist Kothuri with her research into pedestrian signal timing.

Sirisha was born and raised in Hyderabad, India, and still misses the heat — or at least, the warmth; she has yet to become completely acclimated to Portland, Ore weather. In Hyderabad she obtained a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Osmania University in 1999. She moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1999 to get a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Louisiana State University.

A visit to Illinois for her brother's graduation opened her eyes to the automobile-centric cities that make up much of the United States. She was surprised at some of the infrastructure in the Midwest, which decidedly favors cars over pedestrian and other means of active transport.

Walking plays a significant role in the development of healthy, sustainable and livable communities, and this is one of Kothuri's primary research interests. As she pursues her doctorate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Portland State, she is looking into ways to minimize delays for pedestrians.

While an increased focus on pedestrians, in recent decades, has led to infrastructure improvements, little attention has been paid to optimizing the transportation system for their benefit. Kothuri’s research looks into ways to optimize signal timing for people on foot.

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable segment among transportation users and safety is a top priority for many jurisdictions. However, signal timing has mostly been vehicle-centric and as a result, delay experienced by pedestrians has been largely ignored. 

Higher magnitudes of delay impact signal compliance and safety. Kothuri believes that there is a critical need to incorporate pedestrian considerations into signal timing design, so that engineers will consider the needs of these important users and so that traffic signal logic will be responsive to user demands. The overall objective of her research is to explore strategies for reducing pedestrian delay at signalized intersections. 

While the goal of these strategies is to enable the traffic signal to be more responsive to pedestrian needs, the broader objective is to develop settings that can be used at other locations. The findings from Kothuri’s research will inform practitioners in determining treatments that are consistent with the policies of their agency, as well as benefit pedestrians by considering their needs and reducing delay.

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