Christopher P. L. Barkan


George Krambles Faculty Fellow

Executive Director, Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC)

"Our strong relationship with the rail industry means our research has an impact and our graduates have great job opportunities."

1245 Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory

205 N. Mathews Ave. Urbana, IL 61801

(217) 244-6338
(217) 333-1924

Christopher P.L. Barkan is Professor, Executive Director of the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC), and George Krambles Faculty Fellow in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He received his B.A. (1977) from Goddard College and his M.S. (1984) and Ph.D. (1987) from the State University of New York at Albany.  He held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center before joining the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in 1988 where he worked for 10 years in the Research & Test and the Safety & Operations departments in Washington, D.C.  He joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1998.

Dr. Barkan teaches courses in railroad transportation engineering, railway signaling and operation, and advances in rail technology.  Since coming to the University of Illinois, he and his colleagues have expanded the rail curriculum from one course to six, the largest of any North American university, including a new course in 2010 on High-Speed Rail Engineering.  He is also working with colleagues at other colleges and universities, leading efforts to expand rail transportation and engineering academic programs and opportunities nationwide.

Dr. Barkan's research interests are in railroad transportation safety and risk analysis, hazardous materials transport, energy efficiency, rail capacity, railroad infrastructure and operating economics, and the development and cost-effectiveness of new rail technologies.  In his role as Director of the University of Illinois rail program, he has principal responsibility for the railroad engineering research and academic activities and coordinates and supports faculty and students, conducting research on a wide range of topics to improve rail safety, reliability and efficiency.

He has extensive contacts in the railroad and rail supply industries and at the railroad regulatory agencies in both the U.S. and Canada.  Dr. Barkan serves as the Director of the AAR Affiliated Laboratory at the University of Illinois and Deputy Director of the Railway Supply Institute (RSI)-AAR Railroad Tank Car Safety Research and Test Project, a cooperative program of the tank car and railroad industries conducting research on improving tank car safety.  He maintains frequent contact, coordination and collaboration with the railroad research staff at the Transportation Technology Center Inc. in Pueblo, Colo., and with Association of American Railroads (AAR) headquarters staff in Washington, D.C., as well as senior engineering and technical staff at major North American railroads.

Dr. Barkan is a former member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Transportation of Hazardous Materials and the Committee on Railroad Track Structure System Design.  More recently he served as Chairman of the TRB Railway Systems Section from 2000 to 2003 and the TRB Rail Executive Board from 2004 to 2007.  He also served as a member of the TRB Group 2 and Technical Activities Councils from 2000 through 2007.  He was a member of the TRB Committees studying the Feasibility of a Hazardous Materials Transportation Cooperative Research Program, and Reviewing the U.S. DOT Strategic Plan for Research & Development.  He is currently a member of the TRB Committee for Review of the Federal Railroad Administration Research and Development Program. Dr. Barkan also serves as an academic member of the AAR Railway Technology Working Committee, the principal committee with oversight responsibility for the North American rail industry's cooperative research program. He is Chairman of the Rail Transportation Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Transportation and Development Institute, and is Chair of the 2010 Joint Rail Conference, a cooperative effort of ASCE, ASME, IEEE, AREMA and TRB whose theme is "High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail."

Before coming to the University of Illinois, Dr. Barkan was Director of Risk Engineering in the Safety and Operations Division of the AAR, and prior to that was Senior Manager in the AAR's Research & Test Department. In these positions he had principal responsibility for directing the railroad industry's cooperative research programs on risk analysis, tank car and hazardous materials transportation safety, and railroad pollution prevention and environmental remediation and waste management technologies.

Dr. Barkan is an author or editor of more than 100 railroad-engineering papers, reports, chapters or books on a range of topics. He and his students have won several awards for research presented at international conferences and papers in peer-reviewed journals.  He has been an invited speaker at conferences, universities and corporations throughout North America, as well as Europe and Asia.

Research Overview: 

Dr. Barkan's research interests are focused on risk assessment and management, railroad transportation safety and accident prevention analysis, optimization modeling of rail safety improvement, environmental and human health risk of hazardous materials transport, railroad freight train aerodynamics and energy efficiency strategies, rail capacity analysis and enhancement, railroad infrastructure and operating economics and development and cost-effectiveness of new rail technologies. For more information, visit the RailTEC and NURail Center websites.