Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research on Jan. 26. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Senior Lantern Reporter

Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced $45 million in funding to go toward an expansion of the central Ohio-based Transportation Research Center on Thursday afternoon. He made the announcement at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive research, alongside University President Michael Drake, members of the Ohio State board of trustees, members of the Ohio Department of Transportation and TRC CEO Mark-Tami Hotta.

TRC is the largest independent proving ground and automated test facility in the country, and is home to the only federal vehicle research and test lab for the National Highway Testing and Safety Center.

Hotta said the creation of the TRC Smart Mobility Advanced Research & Test, or SMART, Center will be the biggest expansion in TRC’s 40-year history.

The expansion will be funded in part by OSU, Drake said, through an investment of $25 million. Drake said he is excited for OSU to play a critical role in fostering innovation and advising industries in automotive research.

“This affirms our commitment to work with the state, the auto industry and the federal government as we lead the charge in automated vehicle testing and research,” Drake said at the event.

Hotta said the SMART Center expansion will enable the ability to develop the future of automated vehicles and technologies in a controlled, real-world environment before releasing products to the public.

The overall purpose of the expansion, Hotta said, is to produce safer vehicles, safer drivers and safer roads.

“(The SMART Center will be) the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the world,” Hotta said. “It will be the only independent test facility of its kind that is a part of an existing, comprehensive, one-stop-shop vehicle testing facility where all testing can be done efficiently, in one location, right here in Ohio.”

The project will take place in three phases. First, with the creation of the industry’s largest high-speed intersection for mobility testing, as well as the building of the industry’s largest test platform, which will measure about 10 football fields in length and about 54 highway lanes in width.

Phase one will also include research opportunities for OSU students and faculty. Kasich emphasized the importance of partnerships between the private sector, the state and schools to promote innovation within school systems.

Phase two will include the creation of an indoor, all-season facility for testing in severe conditions like ice. The third phase will include a six-lane, high-speed highway.

“This is on-hands training for these students, it’s as good as it can get in education, in my view,” Kasich said.