September 02, 2005

Transportation Education Center Governor announces $3.9 million for SIUC project

by Tom Woolf


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Planning for Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Transportation Education Center will move into high gear following Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's announcement today (Sept. 2) of $3.9 million in funding for planning and design of the project.

Blagojevich made the announcement to a large audience gathered at the Southern Illinois Airport between Carbondale and Murphysboro, the future home for the $39 million center. The funding is through the governor's economic development program "Opportunity Returns."

"Today is a day that solidifies more than 10 years of planning and dreaming," Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said in introducing Blagojevich. "We have programs in aviation technology, aviation management and automotive technology that rank among the best in country. Our facilities for both haven't been adequate for 10 years. But today, because of those who could envision the future, we are here to celebrate."

The Transportation Education Center will serve SIUC's nationally recognized aviation and automotive programs, which are part of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Among those participating in today's event was Mary Simon, widow of the college's first dean, Ernest J. Simon. Wendler said she was on hand "to see the beginning of something her husband dreamed of when this college began more than 50 years ago."

Wendler also noted the contributions of Glenn Poshard, former chair of the SIU Board of Trustees and former vice chancellor for administration at SIUC, and Larry Woolard, southern region manager for the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The center will replace outdated facilities and laboratories, as well as crowded learning environments. It also will provide adequate space for millions of dollars worth of equipment purchased by and donated to the two programs.

The complex will comprise five existing buildings and four new buildings, and the new buildings will total 271,000 square feet. The main structure will include classrooms, corporate facilities and meeting rooms, a computer center, libraries, laboratories, flight simulator and an engine test cell to safely test operating airplane engines.

"The TEC will finally bring the quality of the learning environment to the level of the outstanding teaching that takes place in our classrooms, labs and, in this case, the sky," CASA Dean Paul D. Sarvela said. "It will allow us to increase our enrollments, will provide for safer learning environments and will increase opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching."

The automotive and aviation programs currently enroll 613 students. The new center will allow the enrollment to grow to 700.

"The Transportation Education Center also will provide facilities that will enable our faculty to conduct applied research designed to address pressing issues facing the people of Illinois, such as better ways to develop and use biofuels and other alternative fuels," Sarvela said.

He added that the center also will serve "as an economic development engine, attracting high-tech industries to our region. The center represents the governor's commitment to education as well as economic development to the people of Southern Illinois."

The planning and design phase will take about a year. Construction of the project, which will generate 200 to 300 jobs, will take about two and a half years.

Promoting excellence in academics and enhancing economic development in the region are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

(Caption: Announces funding – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich visited the Southern Illinois Airport between Carbondale and Murphysboro today (Sept. 2) to announce $3.9 million in funding for the planning and design of the Transportation Education Center. The complex, to be built at the airport, will house Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s automotive and aviation programs.)

Photo by Russell Bailey