New UAF research center to focus on Arctic infrastructure

Mar 11, 2021

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has expanded the scope of its transportation-focused research center to include a broader emphasis on Arctic infrastructure as climate change reshapes the far north.

The Arctic Infrastructure Development Center will continue to include a focus on building northern roads, bridges and airports. It will also expand to study other elements of cold-region engineering. Those include the effect of thawing permafrost on communities and city services, techniques to address climate change impacts, and building design.

“We’re starting to see that many of the technologies we have been employing may not be applicable to the future with climate change,” said Billy Connor, the AIDC director. “We realize we need to look at how we make course adjustments in engineering under these conditions.”

The AIDC replaces the Alaska University Transportation Center, which had been based at UAF’s College of Engineering and Mines since it was established in 2005.

The AIDC’s broader mission reflects a recent evolution at the transportation center, Connor said. It had become clear that many of the challenges in designing cold-region roads and airports are present in other types of infrastructure.

Several existing UAF laboratories will work on AIDC research. These include labs at UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering that test frozen soils, study traffic and safety, advance the design of asphalt and other materials, and test building technology. Research will also be conducted at the high-bay large-scale testing facility and cold rooms at at UAF’s Engineering Learning and Innovation Facility.

“A lot of the things we were doing under transportation are synergistic with the change in our missions,” he said. “We were studying these things already, and this adds a little more depth and breadth to that research.”

ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Billy Connor, 907-474-5550,