Rowan Creates

Rowan Engineering CREATEs Solutions to Roadway Problems

The future of our nation’s highways—including heavily congested New Jersey roadways such as Routes 42 and 295, the Atlantic City Expressway, and I-95—soon may be in the hands of researchers at a unique facility slated to go up shortly at the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan University, in Mantua Township.

Under the auspices of the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, the second building at the Tech Park will be the Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering systems (CREATEs), funded by nearly $5 million in grants and contracts from the State of New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Defense/Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

CREATEs will house a new Heavy Vehicle Simulator (HVS) — the only one at a college or university in the Northeast United States—which will be able to determine the long-term effects of wear and tear on roadways.

The HVS is capable of simulating two decades of highway traffic, airplane traffic and more in only a quarter to half a year, enabling researchers 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.

Dr. Yusuf Mehta, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, will head the Center, where he plans to conduct work for the Garden State and other states, government agencies and businesses. The structure will open by fall 2016.

CREATEs will include a 50-foot by 90-foot structure that will house equipment, offices and space to run tests, as well as an outdoor testing environment that can be designated for specific types of materials and clients. Eventually, various states may “own” a section of CREATEs, which will be dedicated to just their needs.

“We can help states make something better,” Mehta said. “If something fails, we can determine if that happens in all situations, such as different weather conditions or at different temperatures. If something fails, we can help them find a solution.”

Within its first two years of operations, Mehta expects the center will employ between five and 10 professionals who will conduct testing for asphalt, concrete, soils, and other design and construction materials. The HVS, which has the capacity to mimic up to 20 years of traffic usage, will enable researchers to evaluate such topics as soil failure, moisture impact and road structures. Such testing will ensure quality of materials and introduce economic efficiencies.

While there is no absolute substitute to determine how a material will hold up as opposed to an actual 20-year field performance of a roadway, Mehta said CREATEs and the HVS “close that gap.”

“Who’s got 20 years?” he said. “This answers some part of the question about roadways. Lab results are good, but the HVS can demonstrate what actually will happen in the field. This tests reality. That is why it is so valuable.”

Dr. Anthony Lowman, dean of the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, expects CREATEs to boost the economy as it further grows research initiatives at Rowan while meeting the needs of states, manufacturers and contractors.

“Not only will CREATEs help ensure the quality of what our roads are made of, it also will help our clients save money. Equally important, it will enable Rowan to drive innovation as our researchers explore and validate new products, and it will boost the South Jersey economy,” Lowman said. “Since CREATEs is unique to the Northeast, it will enable Rowan to attract manufacturers, which in turn will lead to more highly skilled jobs in our region.”

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