Transportation has always played an essential role in the development of society, originally with regard to trade routes and harbours, but more recently with regard to land- and air-based systems as well. It is the transportation engineer’s responsibility to plan, design, build, operate and maintain these systems of transport, in such a way as to provide for the safe, efficient and convenient movement of people and goods.
Increasing environmental concerns have revived an interest in the development and management of public transportation systems. Professional activities can range from road and transit design and operation at the urban scale, to railroad, seaway and airport location, construction and operation at the regional and national scale. Transportation engineering in North America focuses on automobile infrastructures, although it also encompasses sea, air and rail systems.
Automobile infrastructures can be split into the traditional area of highway design and planning, and the rapidly growing area of traffic control systems. The transportation engineer faces the challenge of developing both network links and major terminals to satisfy transportation demands, with due regard for the resultant land-use, environmental and other impacts of these facilities.