Campus engineers to help PennDOT

PennDOT hired the civil and environmental engineering department for bridge work.

Temple’s civil and environmental engineering department has entered a five-year $5 million contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Faculty and students will assist PennDOT in various infrastructure related projects, such as evaluating the level of deterioration in an old bridge and recommending ways to solve the problem.

“It will help us meet some applied research needs in the areas of research and education,” said Michael Bonini, research program manager at PennDOT. “This is another tool we have in our tool box in real world transportation problem solving.”

“As with any other project, the goal of our projects is not only to do research, the main goal is to train our graduate students and undergraduate students,” said Michel Boufadel, the department chair. “In all our projects, we try to involve our students.”

PennDOT has similar partnerships with Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Temple will work in the 5th, 6th and 7th districts in Philadelphia but is not confined to only those districts.

Penn State is involved in the central part of the state and the University of Pittsburgh will work in the western section.

Temple will begin to work in March 2009.

Dept. of Engineering Michael Boufadel

Currently, the faculty is looking at three different bridges in the state and will later involve students in its work.

Graduate and undergraduate engineering majors’ roles include going on-site and do field work in evaluating the damage in a bridge and providing recommendations to the faculty as to what work needs to be done.

Most of the $5 million will go toward covering equipment and travel expenses for students while a small portion of the money will go to the faculty.

“Our project is not for profit,” Boufadel said. “We conduct research, we train people and we publish the results, so there is no place for us to say we made a profit.”

Boufadel said PennDOT and other government organizations began initiating contracts with universities after realizing the need to repair the infrastructure in the United States, especially devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse.

“This is amazing that a country such as the United States – the top in the world in science and engineering – would have a problem such as that,” Boufadel said. “This country has the resources to fix bridges, so I think there is a big awareness to fix the infrastructure.”

Most highways and bridges in the United States were built in the 1950s and are in need of repair.

“Most of the infrastructure for our country is pretty old, which means a lot of structural work needs to be done,” said Tim Jennings, a senior structural engineering major.

Students in the project will also analyze the surrounding environment near bridges and roads.
“PennDOT is not just interested in structures and concrete, they are interested in the environment surrounding the structures.” Boufadel said.

PennDOT will provide students with contacts and information about working in the transportation business and host academic workshops.

“We are excited to work with Temple, we have not done so in the past,” Bonini said. “Our interactions with the faculty at the university so far have been outstanding, and we are looking forward to building a successful relationship.”

Brian Dzenis can be reached at

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