Rowan Engineering CREATEs solutions to roadway problems

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September 19, 2016

Its parts move no more than 2.5 miles per hour, but the equipment housed in a hangar just off Rt. 322 and 55 in Mantua Township may be the link to transportation innovation for the Garden State and the nation.

The equipment is a 50-ton Heavy Vehicle Simulator (HVS), and its home is the brand-new Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering systems (CREATEs) at the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan University.

 

About 200 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening for CREATEs on Sept. 14.

$5 million in funding

The State of New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Defense/Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Transportation helped fund CREATEs with $5 million, investing in a facility where researchers will be able to mimic a decade’s worth of wear and tear on roadways and landing strips in less than a year.

Rowan is the only college or university in the Northeast to house an HVS, and that means teams of students and faculty will partner with and conduct research for state entities and manufacturers to improve roadways, reduce environmental impacts and more. In sections that can be dedicated to specific organizations, those researchers will be able to assess the status of existing structures and evaluate the potential of new materials and how they will hold up to cars, trucks and airplanes.

Unique engineering program

“Having the Heavy Vehicle Simulator here makes our Civil & Environmental Engineering program unique in the nation,” said Dr. Anthony Lowman, dean of the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, under whose auspices CREATEs falls. Lowman said that Rowan Engineering teams will work in a “research-intensive atmosphere (that) innovates and pushes the cutting edge of our field.”

Rep. Donald Norcross cited the initiative with a Congressional proclamation presented at the opening.

Government, business partners

The CREATEs team already is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers; New Jersey Department of Transportation; Earle Asphalt Co., Wall Township, New Jersey; and American Asphalt Company, Inc., Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey.

Those partnerships provide Rowan students with the hands-on experience critical to their learning experience and future careers. They also provide government offices and businesses with extensive research and development support, noted Rowan’s president, Dr. Ali Houshmand.

Houshmand said the work at CREATEs speaks to the University’s commitment to conduct studies that make a difference.  “Our research is practical, real-world research,” he said.

Among the elite

David Lambert, assistant commissioner of Capital Program Management, New Jersey Department of Transportation, a civil engineer himself, said, “It’s imperative we extend the useful life of roadway pavements. This is precisely the 21st century technology we need. Rowan stands ready to join the ranks of the elite transportation research institutions in America.”

CREATEs got its start with a conversation two years ago between Dr. Yusuf Mehta, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who heads the new facility, and Jared Oren, chief of the Engineering Resources Branch of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center for the Army Corps of Engineers. Oren said that the work his team conducts in New Hampshire will intersect with the work done in Gloucester County. The potential to solve transportation problems for both the U.S. Department of Defense and state Departments of Transportation, including New Jersey’s, he said, is huge. “Our teams together are more than the sum of their parts,” he noted.

Tests that make a difference

CREATEs — a 50-foot by 90-foot structure that, in addition to the HVS, includes offices and space to run tests as well as an outdoor testing environment that can be designated for specific types of materials and clients — will employ up to 10 personnel in the first two years. Those professionals will be able to test asphalt, concrete, other design or construction materials, soils and more in climate-controlled environments. The maximum 2.5 mph electric-powered wheel that is part of the HVS duplicates the effect of traffic, enabling researchers to evaluate such topics as soil failure, moisture impact and road structures and for clients to ensure quality and save money.

The HVS, Mehta said, is the only way to realistically capture the impact of traffic. “This capability is so critical because laboratory studies, though essential, can only go so far.  The ability to assess performance of highway materials under realistic construction and traffic conditions is invaluable for a broad range of agencies, partners and researchers.”

For more information about CREATEs, contact Dr. Yusuf Mehta at 856-256-5327 or go to rowan.edu/creates.)