URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — New research is coming to Central Illinois thanks to a $5 million federal grant going to the University of Illinois. The focus of this research: rail safety.

The Federal Railroad Administration picked the university to lead the National University Rail Center of Excellence. The university is receiving $5 million over 2 years that the FRA will be sponsoring for the creation of a center.

The center will include people from the university and a few other schools who will help assist with the studies. The FRA is the agency that enforces railroad safety rules, so the Illinois-led center will be researching to improve the pollution of the trains, reducing freight transportation and upgrading technology like operating trains.

U of I Professor Christopher Barkan said the university has one of the best programs, and that the proposal took a lot of effort.

“That’s because the University of Illinois is a leader and frankly, has been a leader, for literally almost 150 years,” Barkan said. “We have been a leading university as far as a rail engineering program.”

The grant was highly competitive, and it wasn’t easy to get. They submitted over a hundred pages with 12-15 people constantly checking each page to make sure they met all the requirements.

Barkan said they’re at the beginning stage with FRA. They are going over the contract, but plan to get something finalized so they can start the research soon.