RANTOUL - On behalf of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, the Illinois Department of Transportation today announced the creation of a state-of-the-art research program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign designed to produce safer, less congested highways, more environmentally friendly transportation solutions and longer lasting roads. The state is providing $6.6 million over the first three years to build the Illinois Center for Transportation, or ICT.
“Transportation is the life-blood of our economy in Illinois. Investing in a research center will build on our strengths and use new technologies to help maximize the return on our road-building dollars and make our roads even safer,” the Governor said.
The ICT will be a part of the Advanced Transportation Research and Education Laboratory in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Civil Engineering. Under the cooperative agreement, the center will be administered by UIUC under the direction of IDOT. It will provide state-of-the-art facilities for training public- and private-sector transportation professionals and will provide research opportunities for students. The Illinois Department of Transportation and UIUC have a cooperative research program dating back to 1941.
“Governor Blagojevich has told us to look for partnerships within our borders and to strive for maximum efficiency with our capital investments,” said IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin. “We are taking advantage of our unique relationship with one of the premier research and engineering institutions in the world. This is an investment in our human capital that will pay off for Illinois taxpayers by delivering safer and more durable roads.”
“I want to thank Governor Blagojevich for building upon our research program that has long focused on bridge, pavement and material issues,” said Robert Dodds, head of UIUC’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “We all want to save lives and money and we know that through focused research and engineering we can do just that. It will benefit taxpayers though lives and money saved, and it will benefit students and transportation professionals through research opportunities they may not have had otherwise.”
The focus of ICT will be outreach, education and research to solve transportation problems, reduce congestion and improve safety and efficiency. The research activities undertaken at the ICT will play a major role in maintaining and operating a premier transportation system, as well as promoting economic development.
“It is well documented that for every dollar spent on transportation research, seven tax dollars are eventually saved,” said the research lab’s director, Imad Al-Qadi. “The center could easily be responsible for saving more than $100 in just a matter of a few years. But more importantly, if one life is saved by increased safety on our roads and bridges, the investment is worth it.”
The total cost for the first three-years of ICT is $8.8 million, with IDOT providing a majority of its $6.6 million share through federal highway dollars, specifically earmarked for research purposes. The University of Illinois is providing the local match of $2.2 million to get the program underway.
A unique feature of ICT is that, even though it is administered by UIUC, a portion of the funding must be outsourced to schools outside of the University of Illinois system. This is intended to develop cooperative relationships with other Illinois universities and expose more students to transportation research.