June 23, 2018 | ° F

DOT awards $3.5 million grant to U.

Photo by Conor Alwell |

The University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure Transportation will divide the transportation center grant among five institutions across the Northeast.

The University may be one step closer to tackling transportation challenges after receiving a $3.5 million grant last week from the United States Department of Transportation.

U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday that the DOT would grant $77 million to 22 university transportation centers to address transportation problems in the nation, according to a U.S. DOT press release.

“Transportation matters in everyone’s daily life. These research centers will help us solve the transportation challenges we face today and those that we know lay ahead of us,” he said in the release.

The Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) will allocate the funds to build a consortium of researchers at Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of Delaware and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, said Allison Thomas, CAIT marketing and communications associate director.

“There is no predetermined split on the $3.5 million. CAIT will receive the award and administrate the grant,” she said. “We will work collaboratively with our partners to distribute and apply the funds to various research projects, as yet to be determined.”

CAIT has no specific plans on how to use the grant funds between the consortiums of universities, but there are several possibilities, Thomas said.

“One reason the grant is so important to us is that it allows us to support a variety of programs that may not be funded by other specific grants and contracts,” she said.

In a $25.5 million grant awarded to CAIT in 2008, a contract with the Federal Highway Administration program requires funds from the grant to be spent only on assessing and collecting long-term data on bridge condition and performance, she said.

“The funds do not come with such narrow restrictions, though there are still very specific requirements we must meet to maintain the funding,” Thomas said.

She said the funds remain versatile and could affect a variety of activities linked to everyday operations.

“Every time you flip a switch, take a shower or drive to the store, you’re relying on infrastructure,” Thomas said. “People, products, energy and information ... nothing moves without infrastructure, so it is inextricably linked with our daily quality of life.”

With no established plans, the grant has the potential to benefit University students, she said.

“Among the many applications for the funds, some of the money may be applied to support employment of student research assistants on specific projects,” she said. “Again, this is not predetermined and no specific amount of funds is put aside for this purpose.”

Other schools in the consortium have expressed their preliminary plans for the grant money, said Sue McNeil, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and urban affairs and public policy at the University of Delaware.

“University of Delaware’s share of the grant will be used to support projects focused on state-of-good repair of our transportation system including graduate and undergraduate support,” McNeil said.

Two graduate student fellowships will be awarded, she said.

Faculty at the University of Delaware will have the opportunity to see additional support to collaborate with other consortium members, she said. All funds require dollar–for-dollar match from non-federal sources.

Greg Winfree, acting administrator of the U.S. DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, said the grants would benefit all universities involved in the consortium.

“We are excited about the proposals these consortia put forward,” he said in a statement. “They have the potential to advance basic and applied transportation research today and ensure a robust pipeline of professionals for the transportation workforce of tomorrow.”

By Adam Uzialko

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