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.
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
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.
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).
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.