NORMAN, Okla.—The University of Oklahoma will lead the Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center (SPRTC), a University Transportation Center (UTC) funded by a $2.6 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"Becoming a Regional Transportation Center presents a great opportunity to OU to become an even stronger leader in the field," said OU President David L. Boren
In addition to OU, the Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center consortium includes Oklahoma State University, 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.
"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."
"I am pleased that the Department of Transportation will award more than $2.5 million in grant money to the University of Oklahoma's UTC consortium," said Congressman Tom Cole. "This grant recognizes that Oklahoma is advancing viable solutions that will repair broken infrastructure and improve other transportation needs nationwide. I look forward to the difference this money will make through the bright minds in Norman and through the seven other consortium universities in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico."
"Extreme weather conditions can create enormous challenges for our transportation infrastructure," said Governor Mary Fallin. "This grant will support research that will help make our roads, bridges and rail systems more climate adaptive and less vulnerable to bad weather."
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.
"Fortunately, we can access some of the world's best weather research and information in our back yard," said Zaman, referring to weather entities that include the National Weather Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Severe Storms Laboratory, and Radar Innovations Laboratory located in Norman, Okla. Zaman said the Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center plans to overlay weather expertise upon infrastructure research to focus on climate adaptive transportation and freight movement. "This will give us a more accurate picture of the challenges and stress on the southern plains region transportation infrastructure and insight to the best solutions," said Zaman.
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.
"The center will address the most challenging issues of both the Federal Highway Administration and State Transportation Agencies. 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," says Oklahoma State University Engineering Dean Paul Tikalsky.
"Sustainable transportation infrastructure is crucial to public safety and economic prosperity. Through the Southern Plains Regional Transportation Center we have assembled an outstanding team that fully represents the states in our region, and we look forward to working together," said OU Engineering Dean Tom Landers.
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