Nebraska's highways run through largely rural areas with unique needs and challenges. Traffic in these areas continues to increase each year. In particular, rural highways support a high percentage of heavy commercial vehicles; in some rural areas, over 60% of highway traffic consists of heavy commercial vehicles. NTC researchers are working to develop roadway designs that can support this type of traffic and ways to maximize the safety of both passenger vehicle operators and commercial vehicle operators. With such a high percentage of heavy vehicles, bridge research at NTC has also made important contributions to the state's rural transportation system, through development of materials and designs that require minimal maintenance and have a longer life span than older models.
To identify the transportation needs of rural areas, NTC partners with the Nebraska Safety Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and works closely with the Nebraska Department of Roads and Nebraska Trucking Association. Through support from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and the Federal Highway Administration, NTC researchers in the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility have developed roadside safety equipment including cable barriers, the W-beam barrier system and the Midwest Guardrail System bridge rail that have become standard, and been installed on thousands of miles of rural highways across the nation. These improvements have helped to save the lives of countless motorists traveling in these areas.