The Texas A&M University System is a leader in critical infrastructure innovation and research, and is accustomed to solving large, complex problems to best serve the state and nation.
America’s safety, prosperity, public health and global competitiveness depend upon secure, functional and resilient critical infrastructure. High-quality infrastructure made country more competitive, created jobs, and reduced the costs of goods and services for consumers. However, much of the infrastructure in the United States has now reached or surpassed its intended life span, and is deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired. The U.S. power grid is more than 130 years old and vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The decades-old water and wastewater systems within our major cities are crumbling and are now undersized for the growing populations they must support.
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. would have to invest $3.6 trillion in order to simply bring our infrastructure up to a state of good repair by 2020. And according to the National Association of Manufacturers, without major improvements to our transportation systems, “the United States will lose more than 2.5 million jobs by 2025.”
Improving and expanding our nation’s infrastructure is an issue that garners widespread support across all political parties, states and regions. People from small towns, large cities and remote rural areas agree that our nation’s roads and bridges, water and wastewater systems, airports and water ports are now in desperate need of improvement. Despite this support, there are no easy answers for how to move forward to solve a problem that’s been decades in the making. Developing 21st century technologies, materials and innovative solutions to modernize these critical infrastructures will require interdisciplinary research teams with state-of-the-art research facilities to support an effective and ongoing national research, innovation, education, and workforce development training effort.
Now is the perfect time to convene industry leaders from the public and private sectors, contractors and engineers, policymakers and academic infrastructure researchers and scholars to tackle this issue head on in a national critical infrastructure summit. The National Symposium on the Barriers and Opportunities for Infrastructure Renewal will convene nationally recognized infrastructure sector leaders to review the challenges facing our nation’s critical infrastructure; identify the physical, financial, industry productivity and regulatory barriers to modernizing these networks; and develop recommendations for advancing the renewal of our nation’s most critical infrastructure systems.
The Value Proposition
The Texas A&M System is well positioned to lead a national critical infrastructure symposium and dialogue. The Texas A&M System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.2 billion and a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies. Across the system, more than 1,200 faculty, students and research professionals are dedicated to critical infrastructure related research with a focus on transportation, water, energy, communications, cyber systems, power and structural needs. These researchers have expertise in construction innovation, sensors, smart materials, power grid, border and port security, and socio-physical resilient systems across all critical infrastructure sectors. Over the past five years, the Texas A&M System has generated more than $50 million annually in critical infrastructure related research for over 1,000 projects. The Texas A&M System also has an unrivaled capability to provide workforce development and training to the infrastructure industry. Texas A&M Engineering programs having trained more than 170,000 persons from every U.S. state and territory in the past year alone in a variety of areas.
The Texas A&M System envisions using the infrastructure assets of the state of Texas as a living laboratory to develop, test, evaluate and deploy innovations to modernize critical infrastructure more rapidly and efficiently. Texas is home to some of the nation’s largest critical infrastructure networks and systems. These include the nation’s largest public road and bridge system, largest petroleum refining and chemical products production complex, largest railway network, largest airport system and largest pipeline network. Texas is also the nation’s largest producer of energy and is the only state with its own power grid. Texas also boasts several merchant power plants that can deliver power into ERCOT and non-ERCOT grids such as the Frontier Power Plant in Grimes County owned by Tenaska, which was the first such plant brought online in Texas.
Texas is also a leader in the maritime sector and is home to four of the top 10 ports in America. By combining these vast assets with the Texas A&M System’s strong and lasting partnerships with critical public infrastructure agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation, DFW Airport, Port of Houston and ERCOT, Texas will serve as the ideal living laboratory for advancing these critical infrastructure innovation and modernization ideas.
The Texas A&M System is also the proud home of the state-of-the-art Center for Infrastructure Renewal (CIR). The Texas Legislature invested in the construction of this world-class facility, which will be completed by the end of 2017 and will feature high-tech laboratories for multi-institutional research, innovation, testing and workforce development training. The CIR will be equipped with the latest technology dedicated to sensors, highways, bridges, tunnels, electrical grids, ports, water systems, airports, railways and pipelines.
The CIR is located on the new RELLIS Campus, a 2,000-acre, high-tech site, located eight miles from the main Texas A&M University campus, dedicated to transformational applied research and education. The RELLIS Campus will include premier engineering facilities and state-of-the-art test beds focused on critical infrastructure research and development, cybersecurity, energy, and chemical processing and safety, systems simulation and modeling, advanced manufacturing, large-scale structure testing, smart power grids, process engineering and food security, sensor fusion, smart transportation systems, and advanced materials testing.
Throughout this symposium, research and academic professionals at the hosting Texas A&M University System entities will capture the recommendations that evolve from these high-level discussions. A summary report will be produced and shared on behalf of the symposium participants with: the Presidential Administration, Congress, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Conference of Mayors, among others.