Transportation in cold regions has unique challenges and opportunities. While more temperate climates are only discussing climate change, we in arctic and antarctic regions are experiencing climate change. We have an opportunity and obligation to take the lead in adapting our transportation systems to those changes. Climate change impacts include warming permafrost, changes in precipitation patterns, changes in animal habitat and changes in plant species. In order to understand the impacts of climate change, AUTC includes vulnerability reviews for our roadways, airports, railways, bridges, ports, and pipelines into each of our projects. We work with both private and public agencies to evaluate planning, design and maintenance in transportation; our common goal is to ensure the sustainability of our transportation systems.
AUTC takes pride in taking on transportation issues many think are too difficult to solve. Among these are using the silts and sands found in Western Alaska (often considered unusable) to build roadways and airports while reducing costs, adding the influences of frozen ground to our seismic design codes, and managing dust on gravel roads and airports throughout America at a reasonable cost.
Both graduate and undergraduate students are an important part of our program. Students involved in AUTC research change transportation in cold regions, whether it be improving the cold weather performance of asphalt or concrete, evaluating the environmental impacts of herbicides along transportation corridors, or using Radio Frequency Identification Tags to track materials on a construction project. We challenge students to do more than simply “do research”. We encourage students to use their research to develop new design criteria or procedures, suggest changes in public policy, and develop implementation plans for their outcomes.