The U.S. Department of Transportation has tapped the University of Maine to spearhead a national university-based push to improve the durability of New England’s roads, bridges and railways.

UMaine will receive as much as $14.2 million from the federal government during five years to lead the Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center. The center’s aim is to develop technology that will extend the lifespan of transportation infrastructure and reduce the need for costly repairs and upkeep, according to a Thursday news release.

UMaine will spearhead a coalition of research institutions that includes the University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Vermont and Western New England University.

“This is the first time that Maine was selected as the regional hub for U.S. DOT university transportation infrastructure-related research,” Habib Dagher, director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, said. “Along with our partners from all New England states, we look forward to leading research to extend the life of existing bridges, construct longer-lasting assets, and reduce costs for the DOT and the public.”

Nearly 30 percent of New England’s roads are rated in poor condition, costing the average driver $584 per year in vehicle repairs and operating costs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The universities will work with state departments of transportation to develop better road and bridge monitoring tools, find better ways to strengthen bridges and identify better materials that will make infrastructure last longer.

The Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center is part of the national University Transportation Center program. The federal government opens nationwide competitions every five years for universities to vie for the right to form and lead their regional center.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

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