Mainebiz interviews engineering faculty about Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center projects

Mainebiz interviewed Habib Dagher, executive director of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, about the Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center, a collaboration of New England universities led by UMaine. The center seeks to identify new materials and technologies that maximize transportation infrastructure investment, according to Mainebiz. “There are hundreds of thousands of bridges and roads in need of repair. The DOTs are scraping for money just to keep things rolling,” said Dagher. The TIDC is funded by a $14.2 million, five-year U.S. Department of Transportation grant and based at the UMaine Composites Center. The center comprises six New England universities, which partner with state transportation agencies in five New England states, and the American Society of Civil Engineers Transportation and Development Institute, Mainebiz reported. “We have a long history of working on these issues, and we have a well-known reputation of having made a big difference nationally in transportation-related research,” Dagher said. The goal of the center is to extend the life of existing infrastructure and construct new, longer-lasting assets. Currently the center has 26 projects throughout New England using 28 faculty researchers and 280 student researchers,  according to the article. Mainebiz also spoke with Roberto Lopez-Anido, Malcolm G. Long Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMaine and the principal investigator for a TIDC project at Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The high-priority project is focused on assessing six composite strands that are part of the bridge. “The intent is to determine if the novel composite strands are performing the way they’re supposed to be,” said Lopez-Anido. “We’re trying to see if there are any changes over time. The intent is to guarantee the longevity of the system. We know the material does not corrode,” he said. “And we’re thinking some of the data can be interesting for the public. For example, in the observation tower, we can have a monitoring screen where people can see real-time information on loads on stresses. They’ll be able to see it’s a living structure.” William Davids, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, is working with his students on field-testing weight and flexing capacity of cast-in-place concrete T-beam bridges, a common structure. About two-thirds of the time, testing outcomes have allowed MDOT “to say, ‘Hey, this bridge is okay. We don’t need to post or strengthen it,’” said Davids. “That has implications for infrastructure longevity and costs.”