PennDOT to Fund Up to $25 M in Pitt Research And Education Projects

Issue Date: 
March 19, 2007

Pitt Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Will Administer Contract

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will fund up to $5 million annually over the next five years in Pitt research, education, or technology transfer projects addressing transportation issues, under an agreement that the University and PennDOT signed effective Jan. 1.

The contract is administered by the Pitt School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), but professor and department chair Radisav D. Vidic said he hopes to pool faculty experts from various Pitt schools and departments in order to tackle any project PennDOT might propose, including land-use planning and the effects of urban sprawl.

“PennDOT issues are not only in the area of civil and environmental engineering, and we want other departments involved so we can be prepared for whatever PennDOT might require,” said Vidic.

“We are delighted to enter into this agreement with Pitt,” said Bill Pogash, PennDOT’s research division manager. “We also have a similar agreement with Pennsylvania State University. By working with the talented faculty and students at both of these institutions, we hope to strengthen our professional relationship.”

In 2004, PennDOT began working with Pitt on a three-year, $2.1 million project to examine the environmental impact of Interstate 99 construction activities that will connect I-70 and I-80. Led by CEE professor Raphael G. Quimpo, the project studies ways to preserve surrounding wildlife during and after construction, divert road runoff from spilling into nearby waterways, and minimize the environmental factors that would cause the road to deteriorate.

In another project, pavement engineer Julie M. Vandenbossche, a CEE faculty member and head of Pitt’s Pavement Mechanics and Materials Laboratory, is working on “smart pavement.” Sensors within the pavement monitor surrounding environmental conditions as well as the deformation of the roadway over time. Her research is being conducted to develop tools that will assist PennDOT in the design and construction of more cost-effective pavements.

Vandenbossche published an initial report on smart pavement in 2005 and a project update in 2006. PennDOT officials would like to continue the project under this new agreement, said Michael Bonini, PennDOT’s program manager for the project.

“Over the last five years, all of our projects conducted by Pitt faculty have been done on time, on budget, and with all finished products delivered,” Bonini said.

Another major initiative of this agreement involves letting students participate in project research and implementation with the intent of providing real-world learning experiences to encourage students to consider jobs in transportation—particularly with PennDOT—later in their careers, Pogash said.

“We have high hopes that the overall project will be successful and benefit both of our organizations,” Pogash added.

The new Pitt-PennDOT contract is an intergovernmental agreement, which allows state agencies such as PennDOT to enter into agreements with Pennsylvania’s state-related universities.