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The Mack-Blackwell National Rural Transportation Study Center, a national study center for education and research in rural transportation, was authorized by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 and established by a grant from the US Department of Transportation. The 1991 act created two other national centers and also reauthorized the 10 regional University Transportation Centers established in 1987.

USDOT selected the University of Arkansas as the site for the Center because the state's geographic diversity and multimodal transportation system provide a natural laboratory for rural transportation studies.

The Center was named for two Arkansas state senators, Y.M. Mack of Moorefield and Lawrence Blackwell of Pine Bluff, who in 1952 sponsored the legislation establishing the current structure of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Commission.

MBTC began operations in May 1992, with funding awarded in December 1992. The Center was housed within the U of A's Department of Civil Engineering. Dr. Walter LeFevre, PE, professor of civil engineering, served as MBTC's first director.

He was succeeded in 1996 by Jack Buffington, PE, RADM (Ret.).

In 1998 the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century reauthorized MBTC for another four years of operation. To date MBTC has funded more than 100 transportation research studies from a variety of disciplines, and three graduate-level degree programs in transportation are being offered or developed at the U of A.

Dr. Melissa S. Tooley, PE, served as MBTC Director from May 1999 to May 2006.

In May 2006, Jack Buffington, PE, RADM (Ret.) became Acting Director and Heather Nachtmann was appointed as Associate Director for MBTC. Nachtmann is also an associate professor in the department of industrial engineering at the University of Arkansas.

As of July 1, 2007, Heather Nachtmann, Ph.D., became the new Director and Jack Buffington, P.E., RADM (Ret.) became the new Associate Director for MBTC.

In April of 2009, Jack Buffington, P.E., RADM (Ret.) officially retired from the university and MBTC. A surprise retirement party was held for Jack and many of his past students attended.  Dan Flowers, Director of Arkansas Highways and Transportation Department, presented Jack with a proclamation to mark his many years of service to MBTC and the State of Arkansas. See the Spring 2009 Newsletter for more on the event.

Dr. Tish Pohl has joined the Mack-Blackwell Transportation Center as the Assistant Director of its National Transportation Security Center of Excellence program as of June 2009.  Dr. Pohl completed her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Arkansas in 2009.  She has a M.S. in Systems Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Tulane University.  Dr. Pohl served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for eight years.  She will work closely with the Center’s director in project administration, external proposal writing and research execution related to the mission of the program.