Multi-million Dollar Grant Addresses Region’s Transportation Infrastructure
Oklahoma State University is one of several institutions involved in leading the Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center. This University Transportation Center was awarded a $2.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“The center will address the most challenging issues of both the Federal Highway Administration and State Transportation Agencies,” said Paul Tikalsky, Dean of OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. “The commercial, agricultural and energy transportation corridors in the southern plains keep our nation’s economy moving forward. OSU is proud to be a partner in this consortium.”
In addition to OSU, the Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center consortium includes The University of Oklahoma, Langston University, University of Arkansas, The University of New Mexico, Louisiana Tech University, The University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University. Regional transportation centers differ from other U.S. Department of Transportation funded centers in that consortium members must be located in the region they serve and address regional needs.
Governor Mary Fallin says it is the extreme weather conditions in Oklahoma that can create enormous challenges for the states transportation infrastructure.
“This grant will support research that will help make our roads, bridges and rail systems more climate adaptive and less vulnerable to bad weather,” said Fallin.
“Oklahoma’s central location positions our state at a critical crossroad for the shipment of goods and travel across the nation,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Two primary constitutional duties of the government are providing a strong national defense and supporting a strong transportation and infrastructure system to facilitate commerce. With this grant, our Oklahoma universities will continue to advance Oklahoma’s research, technology and expertise in the transportation industry.”
The funding helps advance U.S. technology and expertise in transportation through education, research, technology transfer, and workforce development at university-based centers of excellence. The two-year grant awards each regional UTC $2.6 million annually for the next two years, with eligibility to renew for multiple subsequent years.
“Increased truck traffic and limited resources for construction, maintenance, and preservation of infrastructure challenge every state in the nation,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation, Gary Ridley. “But the southern plains region’s volatile weather conditions place an additional burden on the system.”
Extreme summer temperatures, flash floods and large numbers of freeze-thaw cycles, coupled with poor soils, create enormous challenges to the region’s transportation infrastructure and public safety. According to OU Civil Engineering Professor and Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center Director, Musharraf Zaman, counting only recent severe droughts, economic losses are estimated at almost $9 billion annually to managed systems in Oklahoma and Texas alone, including transportation infrastructure.
The group plans to research all aspects of extreme weather on transportation infrastructure from direct impact to innovative materials, winter weather vehicles and multi-modal freight movement.