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Martin T. Pietrucha

by Rob Peeler Oct 24, 2017
Martin  T.  Pietrucha

Professor of Civil Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

College of Engineering

2017/18 Rock Ethics Institute Faculty Fellow

221 Sackett Building
University Park, PA 16802

Email:
Office Phone: (814) 863-7306

Biography:

Dr. Pietrucha received his Bachelor of Science degree, magna cum laude, in civil engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  He also holds a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland.  He has nearly 40 years experience in transportation engineering specializing in transportation policy, funding, and financing; highway design; highway traffic operations; highway safety; and human factors issues for a variety of public and private institutions.

Dr. Pietrucha serves as the director of the Engineering Systems Program, a research, education, and outreach program that is at the nexus of engineering, management, and the social sciences at The Pennsylvania State University.  He recently completed a seven-year term as director of The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at PSU.  The Larson Institute is an interdisciplinary research unit in Penn State’s College of Engineering.  Over 250 faculty, students, and staff receive financial or administrative support from the institute, which performs nearly 18 million dollars of research annually.  He recently served as the President of the Council of University Transportation Centers, a professional organization of university-based transportation research, education, and outreach units.  He is currently the President of the Research and Education Division of the American Road and Transportation Builders, and he also serves on the advisory board for the undergraduate Rail Transportation Engineering Program at Penn State’s Altoona Campus.

Dr. Pietrucha is a Professor of Civil Engineering with the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University Park campus of Penn State where he teaches courses in transportation policy, transportation engineering, highway engineering and safety, and human factors.  He has been principal investigator or co‑principal investigator on numerous research projects for the Federal Highway Administration, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Dr. Pietrucha is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).  He is past chair of the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board Committee on Traffic Control Devices, ASCE’s Highway and Traffic Safety Committee, and ITE’s Transportation Education Council.  He is also a registered Professional Engineer in the State of New Jersey.

Rock Ethics Institute Fellowship Project Description

The interaction of people with other people, places, products, services is fundamental to human existence.  Maintaining personal and professional relationships, experiencing all this planet has to offer in terms of natural and human-made beauty, and availing ourselves of all of the activities associated with daily life are "endemic” to the human condition, both in the past and today.  In the past, however, to engage in activities people had to move themselves or things to derive the benefits associated with activities.  Since the advent of the signal fire, drum, and semaphore, the development of communication technologies have routinely and progressively outstripped humans’ ability to move in space (i.e., communications “move” faster than transport). 

In a age of abundant resources and negligible external costs, on demand animal-powered and fossil-based transport posed few ethical issues other than safety.  Now, in an age of limited resources and potentially catastrophic externalities, movement, by almost any means, other than human-powered, risks geo-political conflicts and environmental disasters on a scale previously unimagined.  In an age when sophisticated information and communications technologies have the potential to supplant movement-based activity pursuit, shouldn’t we be considering the need, nature, and impact of every interaction?

This topic will be explored to determine the extent of the ethical dimensions of this issue.  Communication, transport, and access weave a complicated moral texture. Whenever we move, or have something of ours move, and, conversely, when we prevent someone from moving, or something of theirs from moving, we are making ethical choices.  Dr. Pietrucha will review relevant literature and engage multiple ethical experts in discussions about these topics.  A second dimension is determining what level of societal and individual behavioral change is possible in converting activities based on mobility into activities based on communication.  Dr. Pietrucha will employ focus groups and online, opt-in survey techniques to probe the prospect of behavioral change.