South Dakota State receives grant to preserve roads, bridges


BROOKINGS — South Dakota is home to more than 80,000 miles of roads and over 5,000 public bridges. Maintaining and preserving all the state's infrastructure on a year-to-year basis can be both challenging and time consuming.

A five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will help faculty members in South Dakota State University's Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering work toward preserving the existing infrastructure in South Dakota, a priority for the USDOT.

"Our goal is to preserve the existing infrastructure, like bridges and roads, and extend their lifespan," said Mostafa Tazarv, associate professor in SDSU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "We will also be developing techniques to better manage the existing infrastructure."

The grant is part of a larger investment in the future of transportation by the USDOT through its University Transportation Centers program. According to the USDOT, the program advances state-of-the-art research and technology and works collaboratively with state, regional and local transportation agencies to solve transportation-related challenges to ensure the safe and efficient movement of goods and people.

SDSU is listed under the University Transportation Centers program's Region 8, which includes Colorado State University, University of Denver, Fort Lewis College, Colorado University Denver, United Tribes Technical College, University of North Dakota, University of Utah, Utah State University and the University of Wyoming. North Dakota State University is the lead institution. The Region 8 consortia of universities are collectively known as the Center for Transformative Infrastructure Preservation and Sustainability. 

SDSU, UTC and the history of improving South Dakota's infrastructure 

SDSU and Region 8 have been a part of the University Transportation Centers program for more than 20 years; however, the consortia's name was previously known as "The Mountain Plains Consortium" before being renamed during this funding cycle. Regardless, the program has had a substantial impact on South Dakota's infrastructure, with more than $3.9 million being provided to SDSU since 2006. To date, 70 research projects, mostly co-funded by the South Dakota Department of Transportation, have been conducted at SDSU including:

  • Development and promotion of sustainable biomaterials and agricultural byproducts to produce bio-asphalt binders.
  • Development of a new filtration technology for stormwater runoff using steel byproducts.
  • Development of new bridge types for South Dakota local roads.
  • Development of a network of screening methods for an improved safety remediation measure.
  • Development of a novel technique for recycling waste polyethylene terephthalate in asphalt mixes.

The University Transportation Centers program has also been instrumental in building the civil engineering workforce in the state, region and country. During the past five years, 1,358 master’s and doctoral degrees have collectively been awarded by the Center for Transformative Infrastructure Preservation and Sustainability (previously The Mountain Plains Consortium) transportation-related programs. Altogether, 195 full-time faculty members mentored graduate research assistants in preparation for them entering the workforce. 

Future projects

In this investment from the federal government, the USDOT will provide the Center for Transformative Infrastructure Preservation and Sustainability with $3 million in funding each year for five years. SDSU will receive $305,665 per year, totaling $1.52 million. While a few projects are set to begin relatively soon, Tazarv and his colleagues in the Lohr College of Engineering are open to collaborate with transportation agencies and industry in the region.

"We are open to collaborations and are actively looking for opportunities and projects within the region," Tazarv said.

Those interested should reach out to Tazarv through his email — — with any questions.