Oklahoma Transportation Center

Background: The Need for OkTC

Transportation plays a vital role in the economic development of a region. Firms locate and expand in places with dependable and economical access to their markets and their suppliers. Quite simply, better transportation means better jobs.

Oklahoma is no exception. Its central location positions it to serve as a crossroads to the nation. Its firms are linked to the rest of the world by several major highways, three Class I railroads operating on 240 I miles of track, two moderate-size airports, two inland ports, and limited inter-modal transfer facilities. These transportation resources pose challenges for the state. One is where and how should the state's transportation system be expanded. Another is how should these transportation facilities and services be operated. Still another is how should we pay for our transportation services and facilities.

One of the primary factors limiting the productivity and safety of the nation’s highway systems is load critical and functionally obsolete bridges. Our best and most productive highway system is the Interstate system. Bridges in this system were designed for the H 20 S 16 loading configuration and are functionally limited to 80,000 lb gross loads. Productivity and cost efficiency can be substantially increased by increasing gross load using “long combination vehicles” that increases driver productivity while maintaining the axle and wheel loads of the original pavement design loads.

The NAFTA international agreements with Mexico and Canada call for uniformity of gross loads for all three nations and our neighboring states have much higher permissible gross loads of 134,000 lb and 150,000 lb, respectively. There is clearly a need to address these disparities and enhance productivity and lengthen bridge life by finding technical solutions to the limitations of bridge loadings. Additionally, many bridges built before 1982 were designed for narrower bridge decks that result in higher risk of collision and loss of life. These bridges need to be widened and improved cost effectively.

These over-riding challenges are evident in some of the specific transportation problems facing Oklahoma. There are many examples, including: maintenance of an aging highway infrastructure; inadequate inter-modal transfer facilities; remote sensing of highway conditions; reduction of bridge scour; congestion relief; pavement and bridge management and replacement; ITS applications; multi-state toll collection systems; multi-modal interfacing of transportation facilities and services; and better retention of state department of transportation personnel. These and many other transportation require creativity and diligence.

In short, for Oklahomans to enjoy better jobs, we must address our transportation needs. Better jobs require better transportation.

The Solution

Solving these many transportation problems requires the cooperative efforts of government, industry, and academia. Universities can play a key role in solving these problems by conducting research, providing technical assistance, training and educating transportation personnel, and conducting technology transfer activities. The importance of this role is evident in that Congress authorized funding for nearly 40 transportation centers in the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21). The number of centers was increased to 60 in the reauthorization act, SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users).

The Tulsa Port of CatoosaAn essential element in addressing these transportation problems is to focus the expertise of the university community in a cooperative manner with industry and government transportation agencies. The vehicle for achieving this cooperative focus is the Oklahoma Transportation Center (OkTC).

Benefits to the State, Region, and the Nation

The OkTC will support economic development, promote the formulation of sound transportation policy, help develop a more technologically advanced transportation system, improve accessibility and quality of life in urban and rural communities, and serve as a vital training ground for transportation leaders in preparing them to meet the nation's need for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound movement of people and goods.

As a National University Transportation Center, the benefits of the OkTC will extend beyond the borders of Oklahoma. The OkTC is unique among the nation's university transportation centers in that it is a true partnership among government, industry, and the university community. The success of the OkTC will be instructive to other states with university transportation centers.


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