Rain or shine, the interstate highway system takes Americans where they want to go, but weather extremes threaten that smooth and safe ride.
Researchers from the Texas Tech Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Transportation (TechMRT), in the Whitacre College of Engineering, are now part of a consortium to conduct cutting-edge research under the theme of “State of Good Repair” of transportation infrastructure in the region, with a specific focus on the impact of extreme climates on infrastructure.
The study is funded by a multi-million dollar University Transportation Center (UTC) grant provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).
The TechMRT research team, made up of Sanjaya Senadheera, Priyantha Jayawickrama, Hongchao Liu and Cathy H. Allen, joins seven other universities led by the University of Oklahoma. The Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center (SPTC) will represent Region 6 (Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico). Texas Tech’s share of this $2.5 million grant is $222,500, with the possibility of a second tranche of $222,500 contingent upon the availability of federal funds.
Planned research includes the study of innovative highway materials, geotechnical structures and data integration for intelligent transportation systems, the impact of weather extremes on bridge infrastructure, innovative monitoring to quantify climate impacts on damage accumulation in transportation infrastructure, and innovations in materials and construction of asphalt pavements to resist extreme temperatures.
Events planned by the SPTC include a “Climate-Infrastructure Summit” that will create awareness of mounting climate challenges for transportation researchers, reveal the vast weather resources available to support research activities, and facilitate new avenues for effective collaborations.
Other initiatives of the SPTC will be education and outreach efforts to address the challenge of workforce development in the transportation industry, which is faced with seeing up to half its workforce retire by 2020.
In addition to the SPTC providing Texas Tech students with research and internship opportunities, the Texas Tech T-STEM Center has partnered with the SPTC to provide K-12 teacher professional development workshops focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics applications in transportation which are aimed at increasing students’ college and career readiness in the transportation industry.
The T-STEM Center will also assist the Whitacre College of Engineering with coordinating K-12 student outreach activities. Finally, the SPTC will provide continuing education training and professional development activities for our current and future transportation workforce.