'State of Good Repair'
UD a partner with Rutgers in $3.5 million transportation grant
11:47 a.m., Sept. 14, 2012--University of Delaware civil engineer Sue McNeil is leading efforts with Rutgers University to improve the nation’s transportation systems.
Roads and infrastructure are aging, a fact that poses challenges in maintenance, upgrading and design for transportation planners. According to McNeil, without proper decision making models to keep the infrastructure in a state of good repair, the crumbling infrastructure could also pose a risk to the economy.
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“Transportation infrastructure is critical to a healthy economy, whether you are looking at the local, state or national level,” McNeil explains.
One obvious example of how physical infrastructure supports economic growth and businesses is the use of roadways and rail lines to move raw materials and products from one place to another. But infrastructure also enables people to get back and forth to work, communicate, have packages delivered, all of which are actions that fuel a healthy economy.
Rutgers’ Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIC) received a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) earlier this year to improve America’s infrastructure as a Tier I University Transportation Center.
Partner institutions in the Rutgers consortium include the University of Delaware, Princeton University, Columbia University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The Rutgers consortium was one of 22 university transportation centers (UTC) across the nation selected to receive $77 million in funding, down from 68 UTC’s funded in 2005.
Four UD projects funded
The focus of the Rutgers CAIC is on the “State of Good Repair” with interest in safety and economic competitiveness, which ties to the DOT strategic initiatives. Under the grant, UD will receive $300,000 per year for the life of the project. Funding will support four interdisciplinary projects:
- Nii O. Attoh-Okine, professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE), will analyze performance data of pavements;
- Pam Cook, professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Attoh-Okine will study modeling and simulation techniques to promote improved lifecycle of polymer modified asphalt;
- Jennifer McConnell and Thomas Schumacher, both CEE professors, will explore non-destructive testing methods for structural health monitoring of bridges; and
- Sue McNeil, director of UD’s University Transportation Center (UD-UTC) and CEE professor, will continue research aimed at creating a transportation index to improve “State of Good Repair” measures, work that builds on her previous efforts with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
It will also support Diane Wurst, a UD graduate fellow and structural engineering student, who is investigating strategies to extend the life of bridges. Working under the guidance of McConnell, Wurst will study whether safety redundancies built into bridges actually perform as expected and enhance the life of the structure.
UD faculty involved in the Rutgers CAIC have strong expertise in asset management, non-destructive testing and bridge performance, and skill in developing innovative ways to view the lifecycle of asphalt and pavement over time. Additionally, says McNeil, the School of Public Policy and Administration brings beneficial expertise in institutional structures and funding mechanisms to the project.
But it’s not just the materials and processes that are of concern, according to McNeil, it is also larger issues like how to incorporate catastrophic or disaster response into state of good repair planning.
“You can’t just collect the data. It must be turned into information that can support decision models,” she says.
Over the past five years, the UD-UTC has undertaken 28 research projects focused on the resiliency of transportation corridors, graduated more than 30 students and engaged the broader community in activities ranging from teaching middle school students about transportation through dance to workshops for professionals. McNeil views joining the Rutgers CAIC as a positive step in continuing the work started through the UD-UTC which concludes this year.
“It was a very conscious decision to join the Rutgers group. We knew only about 20 UTC’s would be awarded and we had to really think about what partnerships would complement initiatives we started with our UD-UTC five years ago,” McNeil says.
“We have synergistic expertise with Rutgers,” she continues. “They are a class operation with established links to state and local governments around the country and we look forward to working with them.”
A kickoff meeting for all universities participating in the Rutgers CAIC consortium is scheduled for Sept. 25.
Traveling lecture series
As part of the grant, the Rutgers CAIT has developed a traveling lecture series entitled “State of Good Repair.” UD’s Delaware Center for Transportation will host John Popovics, associate professor at University of Illinois, Sept. 17 as he discusses nondestructive techniques for concrete bridge evaluation.
At UD, the lecture is part of the Inspection, Monitoring and Maintenance of Civil Infrastructure (IMMCI) Research Group seminar series within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Article by Karen B. Roberts