Business Matters

Mason to play a role in a regional consortium devoted to infrastructure

George Mason University is among a consortium of seven schools based in the Mid-Atlantic Region that has been awarded an initial annual sum of more than $2.5 million to spearhead a transportation research program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) selected the Penn State University-directed Mid-Atlantic Center for Integrated Asset Management for Multi-Modal Transportation Infrastructure Systems for its Mid-Atlantic Regional University Transportation Center (UTC). In addition to Mason and Penn State, other schools involved in the project include Lehigh University, Morgan State University, University of Delaware, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University.

“This center, with Mason faculty and student researchers, will play an important role in meeting our region’s and the larger nation’s need for effective and efficient surface transportation infrastructure inspection, monitoring, construction, rehabilitation and maintenance,” said Professor Elise Miller-Hooks, the Bill and Eleanor Hazel Chair in Infrastructure Engineering at Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering. “It will be very difficult to operate transportation systems of the future, for which there is currently a lot of excitement, if we do not address these fundamental needs of our built environment.”

The study will support multiple modes of transportation including highways, rail, transit, air, maritime and intermodal transportation, with emphasis on highways and rail. Members of the consortium will pursue research, education and technology transfer activities in three key areas: application of innovative materials and technologies, condition assessment and health monitoring and infrastructure management and innovative financing.

“Transportation touches the lives of every American, and the research from these seven universities will examine various aspects of the transportation industry—from technology to safety and management to education,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., in a statement. “I have no doubt that this study will provide students at these universities with the tools they need to become the next generation of transportation leaders.”

The congressionally mandated UTC program has been in place since 1987 to help address America’s growing need for the safe, efficient and environmentally sound movement of people and goods, according to the DOT website.

Each UTC is 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. Together, they advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through education, solutions-oriented research and technology transfer, and the exploration and sharing of cutting-edge ideas and approaches, according to the website.

In addition to the Penn State-led consortium, of which Mason is a part, other UTCs to receive grants included Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation and the University of Maine’s Transportation Infrastructure and Durability Center. The winners were chosen from among the 13 UTC applicants spanning three regions and will be funded for fiscal years 2016 through 2020.