Illinois Researchers to Develop Track Components for Rail Transit Systems

2/10/2015 5:47:00 AM

Yeh Center
Yeh Center

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will work to develop better track components for rail transit systems, thanks to a $2.4 million, two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration. The Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) in U of I’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) will develop new designs for concrete crossties and fastening systems used in light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail infrastructure that take into account their unique loading conditions.

“The resulting components will be more resilient to their respective loading environments and should allow transit agencies to increase the effectiveness of their capital spending by designing infrastructure components that will accommodate the specific types of loads encountered,” said J. Riley Edwards, senior lecturer and research scientist at RailTEC. Edwards was recently named one of Progressive Railroading magazine’s 2015 Rising Stars. The Rising Stars Award program recognizes the top 20 people under the age of 40 who are making a positive difference in railroading through their company, organization, department or team. Rising Stars award recipients are recognized as up-and-coming leaders in the railroad industry.

The research team—made up of experts in transportation, structures and materials in CEE—will work with transit industry partners from across the country. Just one such partner, New York City Transit, is among the largest transit providers in the world, providing more than 5.5 million weekday rides through the operation of 8,000 trains per day, Edwards said.

The work will be done at RailTEC’s new Research and Innovation Laboratory (RAIL) at the Schnabel Laboratory on the campus of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in northwest Champaign and at rail transit field test sites around the nation, including one on New York City Transit.

“This is our first project sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration and we are excited about the opportunity,” said CEE Professor Chris Barkan, director of RailTEC.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been a leader in rail education and research for more than a century. RailTEC at Illinois has the most extensive curriculum in railroad engineering of any university in North America, complemented by an extensive research program in rail engineering and transportation.

The project, "Resilient Concrete Crosstie and Fastening System Designs for Light Rail, Heavy Rail, and Commuter Rail Transit Infrastructure," will involve the following rail transit industry partners: the American Public Transportation Association, New York City Transit, MetroLink (St. Louis), TriMet (Portland, Ore.), Metra (Chicago), Amtrak, CXT Concrete Ties Inc., GIC Inc., Pandrol USA, Amsted RPS and Hanson Professional Services Inc.

CEE graduate research assistants (left to right) Matthew Csenge, Henry Wolf and Matthew Greve in a New York City subway station.