HARTFORD, Conn. — The road to keeping Connecticut's bridges strong and stable runs through the transportation lab at the University of Hartford.
That's where Professor of Civil Engineering Clara Fang is the principal investigator on a project using artificial intelligence to evaluate and predict infrastructure needs.
"AI has [a] remarkable ability to acquire the knowledge from the past and try to predict what's going to happen in the future," said Fang.
The work is made possible by a $238,000 research grant from the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.
Fang said the benefits of the project are simple.
"In terms of safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness," said Fang.
The project uses AI to gather knowledge from the state's bridge inspection records and bridge inventory database over the past 30 years. It then creates algorithms, considering factors like design, materials, traffic dynamics, and weather.
"What the AI model can do is to help the DOT monitor the bridge deterioration process and [be] able to identify when maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, and even replacement should be anticipated," said Fang.
Civil engineering student Daniel Jimenez Gil is also on the research team.
"AI has taken off really quickly in the past two years with Chat GPT. I'm getting a lot of knowledge on how it works," said Jimenez Gil.
"I think students can enjoy and feel the joy of the discovery," said Fang.
The value of that knowledge is impossible to measure in miles, but it will go a long way in helping the DOT.
"Using AI in combination with our human inspections and what we know about our infrastructure needs in the state, it can just be a really valuable tool for us when we're planning billions of dollars in infrastructure investments," said Josh Morgan with the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
The project spans two years. The team started last year and is about halfway through.
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