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In the driver’s seat: FIU hosts transportation officials in nation’s capital
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the U.S. House of Representatives, addresses attendees, among them members of the Congressional Black Caucus. At right, Professor Atorod Azizinamini speaks to attendees about the university’s research and education efforts around the growing problem of outdated and potentially unsafe transportation infrastructure.

In the driver’s seat: FIU hosts transportation officials in nation’s capital

The high-powered gathering in FIU’s D.C. center highlighted the university’s contributions to fixing the nation’s infrastructure woes

October 5, 2023 at 11:37am

by Kyomi Cabral

FIU took hold of the steering wheel when it recently convened a gathering of transportation leaders and members of Congress around an issue that affects every American: the country’s faltering roadways.

For years, FIU has worked to address deficits in the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Chief among that work is research coming out of its University Transportation Center (UTC). The federally funded center brings together civil engineers with expertise in the construction of environmentally friendly, long-lasting bridges.

A 2022 report found that 36 percent of U.S. bridges — nearly 224,000 spans — need repair work and that 78,800 bridges should be replaced. More than 43,500 of those are classified as “structurally deficient.” 

As federal and state officials grapple with the enormity of the problem, bridge engineering expert Atorod Azizinamini is working with colleagues across the country to find innovative solutions.

A leader in the field, Azizinamini heads FIU’s UTC, one of 20 such national centers, each focused on a unique area. In addition to conducting research, FIU’s UTC provides ongoing education to thousands of transportation professionals in both the public and private sectors – federal highway administrators, state engineers, contractors, representatives of fabricating companies – who participate in monthly webinars and an annual conference during which new technology and the latest innovations are shared.

Azizinamini currently oversees seven projects to assist the Department of Transportation in identifying cost-effective methods for rehauling highways, overpasses and power stations. He recently was awarded $3.8 million by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to advance the use of 3D printing for ultra-high-performance concrete.

Building on the success of the UTC, Azizinamini this year broadened its scope by inviting the collaboration of experts at several other institutions, among them Florida A&M University. Faculty and students are working with leading-edge technologies – among them artificial intelligence, drones and magnetic-based methods – that can be used to evaluate the health of various types of infrastructure.

Robert Hampshire, a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Transportation, stressed the critical need for new approaches, ideas, materials and types of construction, especially as climate change and increasing traffic continue to impact motorways. He recognized that work coming out universities will “push our transportation system into the future.”

Joining the event in FIU’s D.C. center, sponsored by Florida-based CSX, a leading supplier of rail-based freight transportation, were members of the Congressional Black Caucus, led by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. Wilson serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the U.S. House of Representatives. She lauded the two Florida universities whose research will contribute to greater resilience of the nation’s highway systems.

“These two powerhouse institutions are transforming futures,” she said in reference to both the practical applications resulting from their joint work and the education afforded to aspiring engineers who learn alongside seasoned faculty researchers. 

View a video of the event.
View photos of the event. 

FIU in Washington, D.C., showcases the impact of FIU research; provides students with engaged academic experiences and internships; and convenes national partners for meaningful conversations across a broad range of issues as it brings the energy of Miami to the nation’s capital.