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Legislators, transportation officials marvel at new Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory

By Jeremy Henderson

Published: Dec 11, 2020 12:00:00 PM

Justin Marshall (far right), director of the Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory, shows off the facility's 4,700-cubic-foot geotechnical test chamber.   Justin Marshall (far right), director of the Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory, shows off the facility's 4,700-cubic-foot geotechnical test chamber.

Alabama Department of Transportation engineer Steven Graben was one of dozens of state legislators and transportation officials that toured Auburn University’s brand new $22 million Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory (ASEL) Friday during the final leg of the legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee’s “Alabama Roadshow," a weeklong statewide tour providing a workshop environment for legislators to interact with local planners.

As he looked around the 42,000-square-foot facility at the corner of West Samford Avenue and Shug Jordan Parkway, his eyes got wide.

"To tell you the truth, I'm almost overwhelmed by all that will be able to be done here," Graben said. "Building this laboratory is so timely because we absolutely have to find ways to extend our infrastructure. I'm excited to be here." 

Organized by Rep. Margie Wilcox and Alabama Transportation Planners Association (ATPA) President Kevin Harrison, the event doubled as the ATPA's Southeast Region meeting and allowed representatives of several Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Rural Planning Organizations an up-close look at the game-changing resources the ASEL brings to the structural engineering research that will provide solutions to the nation’s growing infrastructure issues for years to come.

One of the most state-of-the-art on-campus structural engineering laboratories in the country, the facility includes a high bay laboratory with a strong wall and strong floor specially engineered to handle extreme structural testing loads; wind testing capabilities that can replicate hurricane-level loads; and a 4,700-cubic-foot geotechnical test chamber within the strong floor footprint that will allow Auburn's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering's geotechnical researchers to conduct testing on foundations, anchorages and towers previously only possible in the field.

"It's great to have representatives and senators from throughout the state here to see what's happening in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and to understand its importance when we're making budget priority requests in Montgomery," said Rep. Joe Lovvorn, who represents Auburn in House District 79. "This lab isn't just important for Auburn University — the work that will be done inside this incredible facility will improve the lives of everyone."

Wilcox agreed.

"This place is extraordinary," she said in bringing the meeting to a close. "I think we definitely saved the best stop on the tour for last."

Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson, jdh0123@auburn.edu, 334-844-3591

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