Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Ranking Member of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, co-led a hearing on ways to increase the resiliency of our transportation infrastructure. The hearing featured the testimony of Dr. Habib Dagher, the Executive Director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) at the University of Maine (UMaine).
“Whether it is for disaster recovery, infrastructure longevity, or sustainability, investment in new techniques and materials has the potential to extend the life of critical public works and make them more resilient,” said Senator Collins. “Dr. Habib Dagher’s work exemplifies the importance of research and development related to our nation’s infrastructure.”
“Senator Collins has led the Transportation THUD Subcommittee and I very much appreciated her invitation to highlight UMaine's research. With the new infrastructure bill, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use more durable, more sustainable, advanced materials including composite materials as we rebuild our roads and bridges and create a more resilient and cost-effective transportation system of the future,” said Dr. Habib Dagher, Executive Director, Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine. “We can’t keep building it the same way and expect a different result. That's why Senator Collins’ IMAGINE Act is so important. At the ASCC, our research has led to innovations that extend the life of bridges with little maintenance using composite materials.”
During the hearing, Senator Collins asked Dr. Dagher to elaborate on the cutting-edge research he spearheads at UMaine, which has led to the development of low-cost, high-performance structural composites for construction and infrastructure applications. Dr. Dagher highlighted a number of research and development projects that he and his team are deploying, including the “bridge in a backpack” composites arch technology; composite tub U-Girder technology; floating breakwaters; and bio-based 3D-printed culvert diffusers to protect roads from storms. (Click HERE for a copy of Dr. Dagher’s testimony and photos of UMaine’s composite bridge designs.)
Dr. Dagher also spoke about how UMaine’s pioneering use of composites has allowed them to construct bridges that require fewer materials, do not need heavy equipment to build, and last longer than conventional bridges. All of these attributes have the added benefit of shrinking these bridges’ carbon footprints. This technology is being used to reconstruct the Grist Mill Bridge, a 75-foot, single-span bridge in Hampden that will be the first in the nation to use composite girders with no concrete reinforcement in the superstructure.
The ASCC at UMaine has 260 personnel and is housed in a 100,000 square foot laboratory, making it the largest university-based research center in Maine. Among other achievements, the ASCC developed technology to build the longest composite materials highway bridge in the United States, the 540-foot long Knickerbocker Bridge over Back River in Boothbay. Dr. Dagher also is leading the Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center (TIDC) at the University, which was recently established under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s highly-competitive University Transportation Centers grant program. The TIDC brings together the expertise of New England state DOTs and six universities to develop more sustainable materials and construction methods.
In March, Senator Collins introduced the IMAGINE Act with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that would encourage research and deployment of innovative construction materials in transportation and water infrastructure projects nationwide.
Other witnesses at the hearing included:
· Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
· Elizabeth Repko, Acting Director, Physical Infrastructure, Government Accountability Office
· Edwin Sniffen, Deputy Director, Hawaii Department of Transportation