Regents OK center for cold climate construction

Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2005

FAIRBANKS - The new federal transportation bill provided more than just bridge and road money for Alaska.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will be the site for one of 10 transportation research centers established by the transportation bill that Congress approved last month.

UA Regents last week voted to establish the Alaska University Transportation Center, plus a research facility established through federal energy bill money, the Arctic Engineering Research Center.

Both will focus on practical applications of research in collaboration with state agencies and private industry.

The federal government will send the university $18 million over five years to conduct research and education on transportation systems in cold conditions.

The center also will train students to work in the transportation industry.

"It will allow us to establish a program where we can develop a work force development program for the transportation network," said Billy Connor, director of the transportation center.

The center received $2 million in startup funds in the highway bill last year. The remaining money was approved by Congress this year.

Scientists at the Arctic Engineering Research Center will research the best construction methods to use in cold-climate regions.

The center will work closely with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, a private, nonprofit organization established at the university over the summer to develop practical applications for the construction industry.

Congress approved an appropriation of $3 million for the Arctic engineering center in the latest federal energy bill. Officials at the university are waiting until they receive the money before taking the next step in establishing the center.

"It's set up in name, but we're not actively working on it until we see the money," Connor said.

Both programs will be housed and administered at UA Fairbanks but activities will be carried out statewide.

UA Regent Brian Rogers said the new facilities will expand university efforts to meet future work force and research needs.

"We've been continuing to seek to expand out ability to meet state needs and arctic engineering is very important to that goal," Rogers said.

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