The State of Texas has appropriated billions of dollars over the next biennium to address the state’s aging transportation infrastructure. Recognizing the need for better solutions to meet this challenge, the Texas Legislature appropriated $5 million for debt service for a joint venture between two state agencies, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), for the construction of the Center for Infrastructure Renewal (CIR). The world-class facility will house researchers who are developing advanced and sustainable materials and structural systems that will reduce cost and extend infrastructure life, safety, resiliency and durability.
Roadways and bridges are aging at a faster rate than they can be repaired. The U.S. power grid is more than 130 years old and vulnerable to natural disasters and terror attacks. There is also a concern regarding the integrity of the nation’s oil, gas, water and wastewater pipeline systems. Modernizing these infrastructures will require interdisciplinary research teams, 21st century technologies and innovative solutions for the demands from a growing population.
“The potential for this facility is immense, in terms of both innovative research opportunities and cost savings for the State of Texas,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “We need viable solutions for solving our infrastructure needs without putting more burden on the taxpayers of Texas. By investing in new technology development now, we could save hundreds of millions of dollars in construction expenses over the long term.”
The $5 million from the State is the first year of debt service to allow $65 million to be used for the construction of the CIR. Another $35 million is being raised from the private sector for equipment and program enhancements.
“Our legislators are to be commended for their support of the Center for Infrastructure Renewal. The research and training to be conducted in this facility will address infrastructure challenges, resulting in unprecedented savings to the State of Texas,” said M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering at Texas A&M University and director of TEES. “We expect CIR research to address issues such as developing new methods to repair and replace infrastructure at a lower cost, in less time and with new materials that will have a longer lifespan.”
The research, testing and training facility will be located in Research Park, on the campus of Texas A&M. Researchers in the facility, which will be shared between TEES and TTI, will also look to develop partnerships with industry to help address Texas’ infrastructure needs. The 200,000-square-foot testing facility will be one of the largest in the world, connecting researchers and experts from the field so that they can work together to find solutions to challenging infrastructure needs.
In our mission to train the next generation workforce that will plan, develop and maintain our roads, bridges, pipelines and electrical infrastructure into the future, this facility offers a living laboratory,” said Dennis L. Christiansen, TTI agency director. “Researchers, faculty, students and industry partners will collaborate to find best practices and approaches to rehabilitate our present infrastructure and define the future state-of-the-practice.”
A nationwide search is underway for a director of the CIR, chaired by Dr. Robin Autenrieth, department head of the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University. The facility is expected to be completed in 2018.