Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Delaware Center for Transportation Infrastructure Forum
Clayton Hall
November 13, 2013

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I’m thrilled to be here, and to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Delaware Center for Transportation. I thank the Governor for joining us, and Sec. Bhatt and his great team from DelDOT.

As a civil engineer myself, I could talk about transportation all day. But don’t worry, I’ll spare you.

This Center is a great partnership with DelDOT, combining research, training and public service, all vital to addressing transportation-related issues within the State and the region. And I know we have deep enough expertise—right here in this room—to help solve increasingly urgent infrastructure problems nationally, even globally.

The infrastructure issue is urgent. Our College of Engineering has identified it as a core area of
focus—along with energy, defense and healthcare. It’s one of the great challenges of our age.

A high-quality transportation system is a categorical need, a fundamental human right, because it gives people access—access to resources, to services, to jobs and family. If we deny people safe, reliable transportation, we’re actually denying them so much more.

And so I’m thrilled that DCT has allowed for the expansion of several of our programs focused on transportation issues, including those in our Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and our School of Public Policy and Administration. This expansion is necessary, as transportation issues grow more and more dynamic.

We’ve always excelled in the traditional areas: policy and planning, design, construction, maintenance and control. But now we’re considering transportation’s effect on the economy and employment; on the environment and sustainability; on safety and security; on energy; on community; on human health.

UD is in a perfect position to train a new generation of transportation engineers and planners and really engage in these incredibly complex questions.

We can work with our colleagues developing the STAR Campus to evaluate the effects of different transportation configurations on wellness, well-being and this vital sense of connectedness we’re trying to create.

Our research centers working on energy and environmental solutions can collaborate with DCT to assess the potential of different clean energies in the transportation sector, and evaluate the effects of global warming and rising sea levels on the transportation infrastructure. I know you’ll hear from professors Ajay Prasad and Willett Kempton at lunch, talking about their groundbreaking work in fuel cell fleets and grid-integrated vehicles.

Our Lerner College can help the Center tackle some of the most complex issues related to transportation’s influence on trade, the economy and employment.

We have faculty looking at transportation in the context of natural disasters, modeling options for evacuation decisions—like the timing and location of evacuation orders and the impact on possible routes and shelters. UD even gets into the sociology of the issue, examining how people act during hurricanes and other events, so that we can better manage these life-and-death decisions.

And we’re involving students in all of it. We have students logging 1,200 miles a weekend—all summer long—traveling to the beach armed with GPS to measure traffic congestion and travel time. DelDOT uses the data to shape short-term improvements and long-term planning.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering just started a cooperative work program for students, actually putting them into engineering firms and state agencies full-time so they can get the real, live experience they’ll need to start solving these problems—and still graduate in four years. I thank DelDOT and so many more organizations for partnering with us in the co-op.

This is an incredibly exciting and important time to be in the transportation field. And I’m not just saying that because it’s my background.

We can revolutionize how we accommodate and serve a growing, changing population; how we move people safely and efficiently from place to place; and how we create a system compatible with our most basic principles: ensuring the well-being of our communities and the protection of our natural and built environments.

Thank you.

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