CEE Contributes Mightily to NAE Publication
By Debbie Levey
Civil & Environmental Engineering
MIT civil and environmental engineering faculty and alumni wrote most of the articles in the Summer 2008 issue of the National Academy of Engineering’s quarterly magazine, The Bridge. All dealt with the urgent problems of transportation infrastructure in the United States: defective bridges, congested airports and political obstacles to properly funding a massive national repair effort.
“Intelligent Transportation Systems in a Real-Time, Customer-Oriented Society,” by Professor Joseph Sussman, identifies opportunities to make fundamental changes to surface transportation in the United States. He defined Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) as “systems in which advanced technology operates the surface transportation system by electronically linking vehicles to one another and to infrastructure.” These systems require sensing, communicating, computing and advanced mathematical techniques to handle the required data.
Properly implemented, ITS could reduce the time wasted and pollution generated by road congestion, as well as improve safety. “Success for ITS will be achieved when the new system is so well integrated in transportation decision-making that it is routinely considered part of the overall transportation solution,” Sussman wrote.
“Why do airport delays, congestion and aggravations seem to be getting worse, even with so many skilled and smart people doing their best to make things better?” pondered Professor Richard de Neufville in “Building the Next Generation of Airport Systems.” Deregulation led to innovation, low-cost airlines and cheaper fares, but also brought about instability and uncertainty in the airline industry.
De Neufville described the current paradigm of airport planning and design as too narrowly focused. Planners must “calculate the possible consequences of different developments under different scenarios associated with future uncertainties. The essence of new strategic thinking about the development of infrastructure is flexible design, which involves components that system managers can adapt to future conditions as they unfold,” he wrote.
The issue also includes “Highway Design and Construction: the Innovative Challenge,” by Robert Skinner, Jr. S.M. ’71, executive director of the National Academies. George Bugliarello Sc.D. ’59, foreign secretary of the National Academy of Engineering, contributed the editorial, “Infrastructure and Transportation: Our Nation at a Crossroads.”