USDOT taps WSU, USF to receive grant for roads and bridges research

Updated Jul 1, 2019

road than need improvements

Washington State University (WSU) and the University of South Florida were selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to receive $7.5 million in federal grants to develop research and education programs dedicated to improving our roads and bridges, The Spokesman-Review reports.

According to the DOT, the University Transportation Centers at both campuses will be “a consortium of two- and four-year colleges and universities that come together to form a unique center of transportation excellence on a specific research topic.” WSU’s center will focus on fixing deteriorating infrastructure, while USF’s center will focus on relieving traffic congestion.

“Traffic jams and potholes cause daily problems for motorists, wasting their time and causing damage to vehicles,” says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the DOT’s deputy assistant secretary for research and technology, according to the news agency. “These universities are taking practical approaches to these problems that will result in solutions that America needs now.”

WSU’s center will be known as the National Center for Transportation Infrastructure and Life-Extension and will work in collaboration with researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Texas A&M University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Utah, the University of Colorado, South Dakota State University, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Mississippi, Alabama A&M University, and Tennessee State University. The center will be led by Xianming Shi, a WSU professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Shi said that the consortium will focus on research as well as education, workforce development, partnerships, and technology transfers, and that it will foster the kind of “high-risk, high return” projects that don’t often meet the criteria for other government grants. “Infrastructure is a really important issue right now,” Shi told the news agency, citing the latest D+ grade the nation received in the American Society of Civil Engineers “2017 infrastructure report card” that found approximately 9 percent of bridges in the country are structurally deficient, and 1 out of every 5 miles of highway pavement is in poor condition.

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“We’re definitely falling behind,” Shi said, according to the news agency. “It has already hurt our competitiveness in terms of economy, because you have so many potholes and work zones in the summer.”

“Whether we’re shipping freight or commuting to and from work, every Washingtonian knows the importance of durable roads and modern bridges,” said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.) in a statement, according to the news outlet. “Smart investments in modern infrastructure are critical to our economy, so it’s fitting Washington State University will be on the cutting edge of new national infrastructure research and innovation.”