Dr. John J. Myers, a professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T, was recently named director of the statewide Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation (MCTI).
“I am excited to serve as the next director of MCTI, and I look forward to expanding the collaborative opportunities and building upon the successes seen during the first three years of operations under Dr. Bill Buttlar’s leadership,” Myers says.
MCTI began three years ago as a research center that works in partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and Myers has served as deputy director since its launch. A significant amount of MoDOT’s research funding goes to this group.
Myers says it makes sense to bring the talents from the four University of Missouri System campuses in the transportation and infrastructure areas together, as each campus has experts who are willing to collaborate on projects. All four universities are involved with MCTI.
“Other state departments of transportation, such as in Texas and Iowa, have developed similar statewide centers that work very closely with their partners,” Myers says. “So it was logical for MCTI to be formed to not only bring together the talents of the faculty from all four campuses to create more collaborative teams, which will allow for more MoDOT funding to stay in the state, but also to leverage those resources to go after larger national-level research opportunities.”
“Our goal is to bring together the ideas and resources from a larger group of researchers who have an interest in Missouri infrastructure,” he says.
MCTI examines methods to potentially improve Missouri’s roads and bridges. For example, one current project focuses on guardrail barriers for roadways that are made from fiber-reinforced polymers instead of steel to develop new systems that will extend the service life of bridge barriers and guardrails.
Another recent project implemented the use of recycled plastics or crumb rubber from recycled tires into asphalt pavement as a method to improve the sustainability of asphalt pavement and use materials that normally would be disposed of in landfills.
Myers says the work MCTI is doing today may take some time to be fully implemented statewide, but that goes with the territory for infrastructure projects.
“The first step is often a demonstration project after laboratory study,” Myers says. “We will evaluate a new technology in one area and then prove it is successful. We live in the ‘Show-Me’ state, and it is important to test and show people how our projects may work on a reduced scale before implementing them more broadly.”
As of December 2022, MCTI has taken part in 54 projects and received over $11 million in funding from MoDOT and other research sponsors. The group’s initial goal for the first three years was $3 million total, which they quickly exceeded. Myers says this funding has been put to good use to benefit Missouri’s infrastructure.
“One of the things that most excites me is being able to implement new technologies and innovations into practice,” he says. “We can find methods to benefit the life of existing structures and develop new systems that can last even longer with reduced maintenance. This can save the taxpayers money that can then be used for other important programs.”
Jen Harper, MoDOT’s research director for construction and materials, says she values MoDOT’s partnership with MCTI and looks forward to Myers’s leadership of the organization.
“It is a true collaborative effort of the four university campuses to combine their expertise and help MoDOT provide a transportation system that is safe, innovative and reliable for Missourians,” Harper says. “This partnership is showing benefits not only in the research undertaken but also in the relationships developed between the university and MoDOT staff.
“MoDOT staff have visited classrooms and talked to students about what their futures might look like, and university faculty have visited with MoDOT staff to provide updates on new technologies and groundbreaking research,” she says.
Bob Brinkmann, commissioner and chair of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, says he appreciates the work of MCTI and knows Myers will be effective in his new role.
“MCTI provides a valuable service for the state of Missouri,” he says. “They take part in innovative research that should benefit the state for years to come. Plus, as a graduate of Missouri S&T’s civil engineering program, I am happy to see a Missouri S&T professor now leading these efforts.”
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.