Missouri S&T researchers will join a national consortium of universities focused on improving the durability and extending the lifespan of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $15 million in grants in June to create two new national University Transportation Centers (UTCs) to advance research and education programs that address transportation challenges facing the nation. Missouri S&T will join the UTC led by Washington State University – the only center focused on the durability and lifespan of transportation infrastructure.
“Missouri S&T researchers know they can make a difference and help improve the nation’s roadways and bridges,” says Dr. Richard Wlezien, vice provost and dean of the College of Engineering and Computing at S&T. “This is a serious challenge for our country and its growing population, and we are well-positioned to provide a broad range of engineering and science expertise to this effort.”
The latest American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card gave America’s infrastructure a grade of D+ in 2017. Much of the nation’s critical infrastructure, such as the U.S. highway system, was built from the 1950s to the 1970s and is now reaching the end of its durability. More than nine percent of approximately 600,000 bridges in the U.S. are considered structurally deficient, and one out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition. The problem is expanding due to population and traffic growth and an increasing number of disruptive and extreme weather events.
“S&T will contribute to multiple research focuses such as multiscale monitoring, addressing corrosion and aging, addressing natural hazards and extreme events, and management of transportation infrastructure,” says Dr. Jenny Liu, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at S&T and the university’s lead faculty at the UTC. “The ultimate goal of the center is to enable a multimodal transportation infrastructure system with enhanced durability, extended service life, and better resilience. The work of this consortium will have a significant impact on the country’s infrastructure and the quality of life of its users.”
The center will provide support for research, education, workforce development, technology transfer, and industry and public partnerships as a way to accelerate innovations and interactions. Key research areas include new materials, such as ultra-high performance concrete and fiber-reinforced polymeric composites, as well as non-destructive ways of evaluating the condition of infrastructure. Researchers will also study asset and performance management and resilience, so that engineers and managers can make better and more cost-effective decisions around maintenance.
The UTC will be known as the National Center for Transportation Infrastructure Durability and Life-Extension. Missouri S&T will join researchers from Washington State University, Texas A&M University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Utah, the University of Colorado, South Dakota State University, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Mississippi, Alabama A&M University and Tennessee State University.