Auburn hosts 66th annual Alabama Transportation Conference

Published: Feb 16, 2023 12:00 PM

By Jeremy Henderson

On Feb. 6, approximately a thousand federal and state highway personnel, road building contractors, general contractors, heavy construction contractors, utility contractors, county engineers, consulting engineers, construction material vendors, researchers, professional society representatives and university faculty members converged on Montgomery to share advances in transportation planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance, same as they have for the past 66 years.

Thanks, once again, to Auburn.

Highlights of the two-day annual Alabama Transportation Conference included a keynote address by recently appointed Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) administrator Shailen Bhatt, who spoke on how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law can help the Alabama transportation system. The second keynote address was by John Driscoll, director and CEO of the Alabama Port, who spoke on the innovative infrastructure projects currently underway across Alabama including expansion of the Port of Alabama and the development of inland ports in Montgomery and Birmingham.

Gov. Kay Ivey hosted a luncheon on the first day of the conference during which she provided her vision of the future of Alabama’s transportation system. The second day’s banquet was hosted by Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) director John Cooper, who provided insights into the challenges and opportunities facing ALDOT. 

This year's event was again held at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at The Convention Center. The planning committee, which includes members from the public sector, private sector and academia selected nationally renowned researchers as part of the program. The impressive group of speakers included five faculty researchers from the Auburn University Transportation Research Institute (AUTRI).

“It's pretty well-known that if you work in the transportation, highway, construction, design and any associated industries in the state of Alabama, this conference is a must-attend event," said AUTRI director Larry Rilett. "Last year's conference was my first to attend and I can safely say that very few states have a transportation conference this comprehensive and impactful. The fact that we have been able to successfully host this for 66 years speaks to the leading role Auburn has established in transportation research and outreach."

Benjamin Bowers, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, presented on pavement resilience and gave an update on a research project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the FHWA focusing on pavements in Fort Morgan, Ala. and their response to major precipitation events like hurricanes.

“It’s not an ALDOT funded project, but we’ve had a lot of support from ALDOT,” Bowers said. “It’s important for the Alabama pavement industry and ALDOT team to know about the interesting and impactful work they have a hand in, even if they don’t realize it. So, presenting here at the conference is always great.”

Michael Perez, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and director of Auburn’s Stormwater Research Facility, agrees.

“The work we do is funded by ALDOT and it’s very practical,” Perez said. “Our goal is for practitioners and professionals to use our research in practice, improve the way storm water is managed across the state and to protect our state waters.”

It’s Perez’ fourth year as a presenter. It hasn’t gotten old yet, he said.

“It’s a privilege to speak here, and the event is something I think Auburn should feel a lot of pride in,” Perez said. “The response and the participation shows not only how seriously we take transportation research at Auburn, but how seriously that research is valued by the state. I mean, the governor’s here every year. She doesn’t just show up for anything. The research that’s presented here and that Auburn continues to help facilitate is a huge part of how Alabama is trying to build the future.”

Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson,, 334-844-3591
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) administrator Shailen Bhatt speaks on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at the 66th annual Alabama Transportation Conference hosted by Auburn University.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) administrator Shailen Bhatt speaks on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at the 66th annual Alabama Transportation Conference hosted by Auburn University.

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