Washington State University to address USA’s failing transportation infrastructure


Washington State University (WSU) has received a US$7.5m grant from the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to lead a national University Transportation Center (UTC) focused on improving the durability and extending the lifespan of the USA’s transportation infrastructure.

Much of the country’s critical infrastructure, such as the US highway system, was built from the 1950s to the 1970s and is now reaching the end of the lifetime for which it was designed. Every four years since the late 1990s, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has provided a report card of USA infrastructure that shows consistently failing grades of between D to D+. More than 9% of approximately 600,000 bridges in the USA are considered structurally deficient, and one out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition. The problem is exacerbated by population and traffic growth and an increasing number of disruptive and extreme weather events.

The new WSU UTC is one of just seven in the country and the only one that will be focused on the state of repair of infrastructure. The center will provide support for research, education, workforce development, technology transfer, and industry and public partnerships as a way to catalyze interactions and innovations. Key research areas include new materials, such as ultrahigh performance concrete and fiber-reinforced polymeric composites, as well as non-destructive ways of evaluating the condition of infrastructure. Researchers will also be studying asset and performance management and resilience, so that engineers and managers can make better and more cost-effective decisions around maintenance.

As the leader of the consortium, WSU will provide coordination, integration, program management, outreach, and fiscal management for the center. The consortium includes researchers from the: Missouri University of Science and Technology, Texas A & M University, Case Western Reserve University, University of Utah, University of Colorado at Denver, South Dakota State University, Florida Atlantic University, University of Mississippi, Alabama A & M University, and Tennessee State University.

The new UTC will be led by Xianming Shi, associate professor in the WSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He will also be the editor-in-chief of a newly established Springer-Nature publication, ‘Journal of Infrastructure Preservation & Resilience’, which will be used for outreach and information dissemination on the program.

“Maintaining a competitive and strong national economy requires well-maintained infrastructure, instead of putting Band-Aids on every once in a while,” commented Shi. “The new center is long overdue and very timely, considering the pressing need of dealing with aging infrastructure. Our shared vision is to develop cost-effective innovations and holistic solutions to enhance multi-modal infrastructure durability.”

WSU president, Kirk Schulz, added, “This award is more national recognition of our success in providing practical answers for everyday problems. It’s also an indicator of the caliber of our research in this field. We look forward to providing solutions that address the nation’s transportation challenges.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.