Rutgers’ Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) will receive $2.83 million annually for at least two years from USDOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration under the University Transportation Center (UTC) program.
CAIT, a Rutgers School of Engineering center, earned one of only five prestigious National UTC awards and is now the leading infrastructure research center in the United States focusing on the USDOT strategic area of “state of good repair.” A record number of 142 universities applied in this year’s open merit-based competition for 35 total UTC grants available. CAIT has established a track record of success and productivity since it first became a Tier I UTC in 1998.
“This national designation was hard-earned, and will ultimately benefit New Jersey and the nation,” said Rutgers president Robert Barchi. “It reflects Rutgers’ broad efforts to provide leadership in transportation research.”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a champion of many transportation-related issues, stated in his press release, “As the federal budget has become tighter, the competition for these grant dollars has intensified and it is a real credit to the quality of Rutgers University’s program that these federal resources continue to be provided to New Jersey.”
This is the fourth time CAIT has successfully competed for the UTC grant, but the first time winning a national slot. “CAIT is proud that USDOT has recognized the research program we’ve been building for more than 15 years,” said CAIT director Ali Maher, Ph.D. “We are primarily concerned with pressing issues that affect people’s everyday lives. This funding will help us address the country’s needs; whether it’s increasing safety, reducing congestion, improving the environment, finding better ways to fix bridges, or developing tools that ensure money invested in infrastructure yields maximum benefits—all these things are directly tied to a healthy economy and good quality of life.”
CAIT’s core activities focus on maintaining and improving U.S. infrastructure. The center supports agencies and industry with scientific research that leads to new technologies, products, or methods that make transportation networks more durable and efficient. They also are devoted to educating future transportation leaders and training the current workforce.
“CAIT gives our engineering students a chance to participate in the highest level of transportation research and keeps those already in the workforce current on new technologies and regulations,” said Thomas N. Farris, dean of the School of Engineering.
Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said in his joint press release with Senator Menendez, “Infrastructure across the country is in need of modernization. … In a state as densely populated as New Jersey, infrastructure investment and more efficient transportation construction are critical to keeping us moving.”
Regarding what the national designation means to the organization Maher said, “This award is an opportunity for us to transform our efforts—which to date have largely been on a local, state, or regional level—into a truly national platform that will encourage and facilitate seamless collaboration among agencies, industry, and universities across the country.”
“Our first step toward this vision was gathering previously disparate individual centers of excellence into a cooperative ‘critical mass’ that leverages its collective resources,” added Maher. “In theory that may sound simple, but in practice it’s very challenging.”
CAIT assembled and will lead a consortium of distinguished research collaborators: Columbia University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, University of Delaware, University of South Florida, University of Texas at El Paso, Utah State University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Within Rutgers, CAIT also works closely with the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and other university partners.
“For years CAIT has concentrated on research that can be applied right here and now to address urgent needs for real stakeholders who are facing real challenges in the real world. We offer insight or solutions that have an immediate impact on the operation and management of bridges, roads, ports, energy and water networks, and so forth. We will continue to do that, but now we’re going to take it to the next level and find new ways we can contribute to making this nation’s infrastructure better and stronger,” said Maher.