The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Florida International University (FIU) a $1.4 million grant to work on one of the nation’s leading challenges: deteriorating bridges. The Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center (ABC-UTC) at FIU is the first federally funded entity focused on developing technology and methods to improve and accelerate the construction of bridges. The center, led by bridge engineer Atorod Azizinamini, will tackle an urgent transportation need; most of the nation’s roadway system was designed more than 50 years ago to carry much less traffic. Approximately 25 percent of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and need to be retrofitted or replaced, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The grant, by the DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, makes FIU one of 20 Tier One University Transportation Centers in the U.S. Funding is eligible to be renewed in 2014. Matching funds could bring the total impact of the project to more than $5.6 million over two years. Earlier this month, FIU won an $11.4 million TIGER grant from DOT to improve connectivity between the university’s west Miami-Dade campus, the neighboring city of Sweetwater and other parts of Greater Miami. The public-private UniversityCity project will include a pedestrian bridge over Southwest Eighth Street and a transportation hub at FIU.
Azizinamini, also chair of FIU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, says the center will focus on faster construction methods that are more cost-effective and result in more durable bridges while minimizing interruptions to traffic. “Our objective is to make accelerated bridge construction the new way of building bridges. To do that, we have to develop new technology, we have to transfer that technology to the profession, and we have to develop the workforce.” Azizinamini is also the principal investigator on another multi-million dollar national project that resulted in the development of the first comprehensive document dedicated to enhance the service life of bridges titled Design Guide for Bridges For Service Life.
The ABC-UTC, which includes researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Nevada, Reno, will hold its first steering committee meeting in December. FIU is also home to the Lehman Center for Transportation Research, which has served South Florida and the nation for 20 years in transportation.