Auburn's Highway Research Center makes Alabama’s transportation system better

Published: Mar 21, 2024 9:30 AM

By Dustin Duncan

If a transportation project is happening at Auburn University, it's probably coming through the Highway Research Center (HRC), which operates under the Auburn University Transportation Research Institute (AUTRI) umbrella.

The HRC — part of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering — is leading the charge in Alabama and the United States to ensure industry professionals have the latest technologies and guidelines for designing, constructing and maintaining highways and bridges.

The HRC covers the sustainability, resilience, safety, bridge engineering, geotechnical engineering, large-scale testing, materials, stormwater management, construction management, traffic operations, roadway design and workforce development associated with the transportation system.

Established in 1985, the HRC supports Alabama's highway industry through a coordinated research program. Many projects within the HRC partner with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), but others extend to the U.S. Department of Transportation, other national transportation agencies and other universities.

Anton Schindler, director of the HRC and Mountain Spirit professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the HRC makes transportation more efficient, safe, resilient and durable in Alabama.

"Transportation is the fundamental reason we have so much development in the state," Schindler said. "We work to have better, safer and more efficient highways and bridges."

The HRC performs research to improve the safety, user-friendliness, sustainability, longevity and return on investment of Alabama's highway infrastructure. The HRC houses civil engineering sub-disciplines required for highway design, construction, maintenance, rehabilitation and operation. These sub-disciplines include:

  • Construction
  • Environmental
  • Geotechnical
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology
  • Pavements and Materials
  • Structures
  • Transportation

Civil and environmental engineering students collaborating with the HRC can work with accomplished faculty and the best facilities in the world, including the Advanced Structural Engineering Lab (ASEL) and the Stormwater Research Facility. 

"Students here are working in world-class facilities solving local and national transportation issues," Schindler said. "We prepare our students for life in the industry or their future academic careers."

The HRC also annually offers a graduate student scholarship in honor of Buddy Cox, a U.S. Air Force veteran, Auburn alumnus and 25-year ALDOT engineer. The center also supports students' attendance at the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, DC, each year, which allows students to present their work to a national audience.

"We want our students to do high-quality work here and then present it nationally," Schindler said. “That gives them exposure to a large audience, and by hearing others, they can bring back additional knowledge to enhance their own work."

Additionally, the HRC is responsible for organizing the technical program for the Alabama Transportation Conference, which was held for the 67th time this year and hosted about 1,000 transportation professionals.

The HRC is steered by an advisory committee that guides center policies and research initiatives. The committee, which comprises engineering faculty, ALDOT engineers and various transportation professionals throughout Alabama, is appointed by the dean of engineering.

Whether it’s faculty developing a wrong-way driving guide to be distributed nationwide, making recommendations on avoiding sinkholes, testing bridge components, keeping our construction stormwater clean, or working with community colleges to support workforce development by providing CDL licenses, the HRC is engaged in all things transportation.

“We're civil and environmental engineers by nature, and by being practical and applying sound engineering principles, we design our transportation system to make the world a better place," Schindler said. "That's what we do here at the Highway Research Center."

Media Contact: Dustin Duncan ,, 334-844-2326
highway with bridge in the background

Pictured is the Bibb Graves Bridge over the Coosa River in Wetumpka, Alabama.

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