CPP Professor Wen Cheng honored with Traffic Excellency Award

By Christian Park-Gastelum, April 16, 2024

For his analysis on traffic design and crash data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration honored Wen Cheng, professor of civil engineering, with the Traffic Excellency Award at the 2023 California Traffic Safety Summit.

The California Office of Traffic Safety selected Cheng to oversee a project in collecting and analyzing traffic data across 58 counties and 540 cities. His research identifies the most effective traffic safety measures, along with distributing resources to necessary areas of improvement.

Cheng joined the civil engineering department at Cal Poly Pomona in 2011, and has since accumulated $6 million in funds for his projects in transportation and traffic safety.

Cheng was previously awarded the 2022 CPP Provost Excellence in Research Award, 2020 Provost Excellence in Teaching Award and 2018 Outstanding Teaching Award from CPP’s College of Engineering.

“It’s my great honor and pleasure to work with such a wonderful group of colleagues,” said Cheng. “Usually, people tend to connect the awards with the individual, but for me it belongs to my entire department. Within this journey, I’m fortunately the luckiest person to get awarded with different types of recognitions, which clearly demonstrates the collective efforts of the entire department.”

At CPP, Cheng teaches courses that revolve around transportation systems, traffic safety, analysis and design of traffic/transportation and computer programming in civil engineering.

To  Cheng, it is imperative to improve traffic safety and distinguish efficient transportation as a civil engineer.

“The main job is just to help build the much-needed infrastructure system to our general public,” said Cheng. “To be honest, every single day I have some moments that remind me of the responsibilities as the civil engineer, and for me as the transportation engineer, my major focus is transportation safety.”

Cheng’s dedication, focus and drive to improve traffic safety stems from his experience growing up in his hometown Huangshan (Yellow Mountain City), China. from a rural village that did not have proper transportation routes gave the professor passion to improve the standard of travel.

“Because of the transportation situation, it is very difficult for us villagers to reach the outside world, so that was a disaster,” said Cheng. “I was always dreaming to become a transportation professional in which you can bring the outsiders to go from civilization to our isolated community. With that in my mind, I’ve been working hard, studying very hard and finally got admitted to Tongji University.”

Cheng attended Tongji University, earning his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and master’s in roadway and traffic engineering. Following his time in China, Cheng ventured to the United States to earn a master’s degree in civil engineering at University of Arizona, followed by his doctorate degree in civil engineering at Arizona State University.

He started his first study at CPP with a graduate student  on traffic signal design on traffic safety. After completion of their study, Cheng and his student’s research were selected to present their findings at a campus event.

Some months after presenting their work, Cheng’s student died in a traffic accident on freeway I-15. The loss of his student gave the professor passion to resolve potential traffic harm, preventing fatal casualties.

Cheng noted his student had a brilliant future waiting for him to explore, acknowledging the mental toughness of working in this field with the responsibility of saving lives.

“Ironically he and I had been doing safety related work, and that was suppose to save people’s lives or reduce their injury severity, but himself, unfortunately, was the victim of this fatal accident,” said Cheng. “At that moment, I think I have the responsibility to containing the work we have been reminding of each other during the summer break, and I will carry the remainder of his commitments and save as many people’s lives as possible.”

Feature image courtesy of Tom Zasadzinski, Cal Poly Pomona. 

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