UB is launching a new Bridge Engineering Institute that is focused on building bridges to withstand hazards like hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. ?It?s also examining ways to build safer, more cost-effective bridges using advanced materials, smart technology and other devices, as well as training the next generation of bridge engineers.

The average age of the nation?s 607,380 bridges is 42 years, and one in nine of these bridges are ?structurally deficient,? according to the American Society of Civil Engineers? 2013 report card on American infrastructure. The Federal Highway Administration says the nation needs to invest $20.5 billion annually to fix them by 2028. The nation spends about $12.5 billion each year.

The bridge institute is part of UB?s ?E Fund? initiative, which supports programs that will have a high impact both inside and outside the university. The ?E? stands for excellence. The fund is supported by NYSUNY 2020, the higher education bill signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Through the E Fund, UB has set aside $3.7 million over the next three years for the institute. The university will use the money to hire four full-time civil engineering professors (two have already been hired) and an assistant director, as well as support PhD and graduate students. By 2015, the university expects that 50 students will be studying within the institute.