The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) will give $1 million to the Civil Engineering Research and Education Center that’s expected to be built at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in south Fayetteville. The University of Arkansas announced the gift Tuesday (Jan. 15) will support the creation of a facility that will benefit students, researchers and companies across Arkansas.
Construction on the $10.3 million center is expected to start in 2019, and work will take up to 18 months to complete after the groundbreaking, said Nick DeMoss, director of communications for the UA College of Engineering. CDI is the contractor for the planned 37,400-square-foot center, and the architect is Treanor Architects, with Tim Maddox of deMx Architecture in Fayetteville as the local architect.
“The Arkansas Department of Transportation has been a tremendous partner for engineering programs across the state, and we’re grateful for this investment in the future of Arkansas’ infrastructure,” said John English, dean of the College of Engineering. “We have an outstanding faculty and student body ready to make great use of this facility, and we’re proud the Civil Engineering Research and Education Center will be accessible for civil engineering research programs across the state. This facility will touch the lives of thousands of students as they pursue solutions that save money, improve safety and create a better quality of life for us all.”
The Civil Engineering Research and Education Center will be a ‘living laboratory’ for civil engineering undergraduates at the university — the first of its kind in the state, according to the UA. Students will use the center’s design and construction process to learn about construction techniques and management, computer-aided design and drafting, plan development, construction materials, soil mechanics and foundation design, structural steel design and reinforced concrete design. The center also will provide students with hands-on experience through laboratory exercises and research activities.
“We’re deeply appreciative of ArDOT’s support of our students, staff and faculty through their funding to the Civil Engineering Research and Education Center,” said Micah Hale, professor and head of the Department of Civil Engineering. “The center will be a one-of-a-kind facility in Arkansas and in our region, providing students and engineers from across Arkansas an opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research which will have impact at the local, state and national levels. Our department has always had a special partnership with ArDOT, and with the Civil Engineering Research and Education Center we can continue this partnership to help address and solve the infrastructure needs of Arkansas, as well as addressing national-level needs, too.”
ArDOT Director Scott Bennett graduated from the UA College of Engineering with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. He’s a member of the Arkansas Alumni Association and the Arkansas Academy of Civil Engineering.
“This funding emphasizes ArDOT’s investment in and partnership with the U of A,” Bennett said. “Our history with research at the U of A goes back to the beginning of the university’s research program in 1953, with over 200 research projects either completed or ongoing. Just in recent history, this partnership has resulted in $23 million in investment with an estimated return of $35 million in value. The center will be a living laboratory for civil engineering students to gain practical experience for many years into the future. As the state’s largest employer of civil engineers, we are looking forward to this new partnership leading to even more success for the U of A, for ArDOT and ultimately for the citizens who use Arkansas’ transportation system every day.”
In March 2016, engineering firm Garver gave $250,000 toward construction of the center. Also, the University of Arkansas Board Of Trustees approved issuing up to $5 million in bonds to match private donations for the project. The College of Engineering has a goal of raising $5 million in private funds to complete the project, and including the ArDOT gift, the college has raised about $4.2 million of the goal, DeMoss said.