The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has selected the University of Maine (UMaine) to lead a coalition of New England universities that will create a new University Transportation Center (UTC) to be known as the Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center (TIDC).
Since 1987, the USDOT’s UTC program has advanced transportation research and technology at colleges and universities across the country, with institutions competing to form their region’s center every five years.
Based in the New England region, the new TIDC aims to save taxpayer funds by extending the life of transportation assets, including bridges, roads and rail. USDOT will provide as much as US$14.2m over five years for the UMaine-led coalition that includes the University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Vermont, and Western New England University.
Additional partners include representatives from the Departments of Transportation (DOTs) in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, together with the American Society of Civil Engineers Transportation and Development Institute.
New England’s transportation infrastructure faces unique challenges due to harsh winter weather and short construction seasons. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, nearly 30% of New England roads are rated in poor condition which, on average, costs each motorist US$584 annually in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.
Nationally, driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists in the USA a total of US$120.5bn. Working with state DOTs, the new TIDC seeks to identify new materials and technologies that maximize the impact of transportation infrastructure investments.
The TIDC will work along four pathways:
• Develop improved road and bridge monitoring and assessment tools;
• Develop better ways to strengthen existing bridges to extend their life;
• Use new materials and systems to build longer-lasting bridges and accelerate construction;
• Use new connectivity tools to enhance asset and performance management while promoting workforce development.
The TIDC will harness the experience of 28 faculty researchers and train 280 student researchers from all the New England states. It will focus on the real infrastructure needs identified by its DOT partners, and prioritize extending the life of existing transportation assets to ensure cost-effectiveness.
“This is the first time that Maine was selected as the regional hub for USDOT university transportation infrastructure-related research,” noted Habib Dagher, founding executive director of the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and director of the newly formed TIDC.
“Along with our partners from all New England states, we look forward to leading research to extend the life of existing bridges, construct longer-lasting assets, and reduce costs for the USDOT, other agencies and the public.”
Mandar Dewoolkar, professor at the University of Vermont’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, commented, “This is an exciting opportunity for our students, research staff and faculty to perform innovative research for improving the durability and extending the life of our transportation infrastructure.
“I look forward to this partnership with the University of Maine and others across all New England states, which will strengthen our collaboration in transportation research, education and technology transfer.”