Engineering Programs Addressing Critical Infrastructure Issues | University time
By MARTY LEVINE
Two Swanson School of Engineering programs that aim to foster academic research on transportation projects such as bridge strength, road safety and landslide prevention are now under the direction of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation veteran , Joseph J. Szczur.
Szczur plans “to continue to expand the roles that the University and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering play in the world of vital infrastructure.”
Pitt’s Center for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure helps the department work with PennDOT’s annual research program, which is always on the lookout for ideas on everything from road and bridge improvements to stormwater and issues. geothermal. PennDOT and its local districts — like the one centered on Uniontown, which Szczur led until his retirement two years ago — choose the projects they deem most important to local improvements.
The Impactful Resilient Infrastructure Science and Engineering program was created more recently to examine the innovative solutions of local industry experts on infrastructure problems and to foster cooperation between industry and public bodies.
“You plan to develop workable solutions through research,” says Szczur. At present, IRISE has 11 projects in progress and seven projects in the approval process. Projects are paired with principal investigators from Pitt’s faculty as well as a panel of public and private agencies involved as a “mini-steering committee” for each project, he says.
Members of IRISE include Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Michael Baker International, and Golden Triangle Construction. “It would be great to be able to expand our membership” with groups that can help with such efforts, Szczur says.
The University’s research is “vital to improving our understanding of infrastructure in this region…and how we can build it to last longer from the start,” he adds.
The research sparked by the work of these two programs creates opportunities for students and faculty to get out and see first-hand construction projects underway locally. They’re exposed to the underlying concepts in the classroom, he says, but hands-on exposure to the issues on the ground is invaluable, which “ultimately benefits the transportation community.”
Students are involved in a range of classes at Swanson School, Szczur says. A recent project, for example – a project started long before the collapse of the Fern Hollow Squirrel Hill Bridge in January – aims to improve the assessment and conditions of the bridge by developing better visual inspection and what are known as “non-destructive assessments”: visual assessments of superstructures and beams, substructures and decks which, unlike the removal of sections for examination, do not impair their health. The project uses drones to determine the lifespan of bridges and obtain more diverse data. Final reports on this project have already been widely presented, including at an international bridge conference held here recently.
Another IRISE project currently underway is looking at best geothermal management practices to prevent landslides, looking at the types of ground failures that have occurred and the technologies known to repair them – not just regionally but across regions. United States.
“We should practice what works,” says Szczur, and what is deemed most feasible by local businesses.
Marty Levine is an editor for the University Times. Join it at [email protected] or 412-758-4859.
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