WTI is excited to be working with the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University to find out. Read more on the project page.
For roads with very low traffic volumes, some transportation agencies have found that that these roadways can be maintained more economically and at a higher level of service with an unpaved or granular surface, as compared with attempting to maintain an old paved surface. Through this project, WTI will develop a comprehensive information resource on effective practices for converting severely distressed paved roads to acceptable unpaved surfaces. The guide will be developed based on needs identified in a previous WTI project, NCHRP Synthesis 485 Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved.
Laura Fay, who led the NCHRP Synthesis, will also serve as Principal Investigator for this effort. The main benefit of this project will be the availability of an easy to use guidance document for agencies that operate and maintain low volume roads. The guide will help agencies select candidate roads for conversion, conduct more effective and safer conversions, and communicate with the public on how and why a conversion is taking place.
Additional project information is available on the project page of the WTI website.
The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has found concrete-filled steel tube (CFST) piles connected at the top by a concrete pile cap to be a very cost-effective support system for short and medium span bridges. This type of system offers low initial cost, short construction time, low maintenance requirements, and a long service life. While the gravity load performance of these systems is well understood, their strength and ductility under extreme lateral loads (e.g., seismic events) is more difficult to reliably predict using conventional design procedures.
MDT has sponsored previous WTI research to investigate the performance of these systems under extreme lateral loads and to develop appropriate analysis/design procedures. The primary objective of this research, led by Michael Berry, is to further validate/improve MDT’s CFST to concrete pile cap connection design/analysis methodologies, and to ensure the efficacy of these methodologies for a wide variety of potential design configurations. This research has important potential benefits for evaluating and enhancing bridge performance during earthquakes and other seismic events.
Additional information is available on the project page of the WTI website.
A Feasibility Study of a Driverless, Electric Para-Transit System in Rural Areas
PI: Yiyi Wang
Paratransit systems can improve transportation access for disabled, elderly, and other populations that don’t drive or own a personal vehicle; however, in rural areas, providing these services to small populations over long distances can be cost-prohibitive. This project will conduct a feasibility study on a pilot paratransit system operated by driverless, electric vans that connect rural towns. Three research questions will be explored:
• What is likely to be the benefit/cost ratio of an automated paratransit system, compared to that of existing rural transit systems?
• What are community perceptions and attitudes toward autonomous systems in rural areas?
• What are the barriers or incentives of providing a smart, electrical paratransit system in rural areas?
The answers to these questions will help strategically plan smart infrastructure for the rural poor and elderly to improve their quality of life while reducing social and environmental costs. Specifically, it will investigate whether the deployment of autonomous, electrical vans can accommodate unmet transportation needs in rural areas.
This project will be conducted by the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility, a federally-authorized University Transportation Center housed at WTI. The research will be led by Principal Investigators Yiyi Wang, Mike Wittie, and Ahmed Al-Kaisy. Updates on the project will be available on the WTI website project page.
Many wildlife crossing structures are designed to create safe passage for large animal species. However, there is also a need to reduce the impacts of roads on small animal species, including terrestrial mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. One approach is to adapt road crossing structures that are designed for other purposes (e.g., drainage structures, bridges across streams or rivers, or livestock crossings) so that they are also suitable for small animal species. Through this project, Co-Principal Investigators Marcel Huijser of WTI and Kari Gunson of Eco-Care International will summarize design criteria for structures that provide safe passage across roads, as well as barriers designed to keep these species groups off the highway and guide them towards safe passage opportunities. The team will set up a central repository with case studies, plan sheets for structures and barriers, and lessons learned. The results of this effort will provide transportation planners, road designers, and road builders with a synthesis of the most current information about how best to provide safe passage across roads for small animals and reduce direct road mortality. Further information is available on the project page on the WTI website.
The Public Lands Transportation Fellows (PLTF) program provides fellowships to outstanding graduates in a transportation-related field to spend eleven months working directly with staff of Federal Land Management Agencies on key visitor transportation issues. The PLTF program began in 2012 and was modeled after the very successful Transportation Scholars program managed by the National Park Foundation (NPF) that serves the National Park Service (NPS). The program, managed at WTI by P.I. Jaime Sullivan, is mutually beneficial for both participants and agencies: recent masters and doctoral graduates gain a unique opportunity for career development and public service, while public land agencies gain staff support to develop transportation solutions that preserve valuable resources and enhance the visitor experience. The 2018 class of fellows will be stationed at the following three refuges:
- San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex in San Diego, California.
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex near Denver, Colorado.
- Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge near Detroit, Michigan.
Laura Fay, David Kack and Natalie Villwock-Witte (PI) recently traveled to the Jasper, Texas area for six meetings related to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) transportation voucher program. This pilot project will show how transportation vouchers can be used to provide basic mobility to those who have limited options. Meetings were held in Jasper, as well as Ivanhoe, Newton, Pineland and San Augustine. Similar to many rural areas in Montana, people in the DETCOG area often travel 45 miles or so (one way) for groceries, medical care, and other essential services. Currently, this pilot project is focused on those who are 60 years old or older. The long-term vision is to secure additional funding so that those with low incomes or a disability will also be able to use the voucher program.
The pilot program should start in May and will include approximately 25 participants. Demand for the vouchers already exceeds existing funding, so data from the pilot project will be used to reach out to potential funding sources. The WTI staff is supporting the DETCOG staff to ensure that this program can grow and meet the needs in this rural part of Texas. The new program was big news in the City of Ivanhoe – the photo shows the City marquee informing community members about the meeting to discuss the voucher program.
Concrete can be susceptible to expansive reactions between alkalis in the Portland cement and reactive forms of silica in the aggregates, which can ultimately reduce the lifespan of the concrete used in pavements and other structures. When this occurs, it can result in costly repairs or even replacement of infrastructure. While alkali-silica reactivity (ASR) has been documented as an issue in many states, little work has been conducted to determine the presence/potential of ASR in Montana. The primary objectives of the proposed research are to evaluate the potential for ASR in the state of Montana, and to develop a testing protocol for identifying potential reactive aggregates. This research will also identify/document existing ASR damage in the state and investigate the potential underlying geological features that may contribute to the presence of reactive aggregates. Finally, this research will evaluate potential techniques used to mitigate the damaging effects of ASR.
Sponsored by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), this research project will provide a better understanding of reactive aggregates (including severity) and a better understanding of potential ASR issues in the state of Montana. This information will be helpful in promoting sustainability and extending the service life of Montana concrete pavements and structures. Principal Investigator Mike Berry is conducting this research in partnership with MDT and the Montana Contractors Association.
Ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) has mechanical and durability properties that far exceed those of conventional concrete. However, using UHPC in conventional concrete applications has been cost prohibitive, with commercially available/proprietary mixes costing approximately 30 times more than conventional concrete. Previous WTI research resulted in nonproprietary UHPC mixes made with materials readily available in Montana. These mixes are significantly less expensive than commercially available UHPC mixes, thus opening the door for their use in construction projects in the state. The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) Bridge Bureau is interested in using UHPC in field-cast joints between precast concrete deck panels. The use of UHPC in this application will reduce development lengths, and subsequently reduce the requisite spacing between the decks and improve the overall performance of the bridge. Through this project, P.I. Michael Berry will build on the non-proprietary Phase I UHPC research he recently completed for MDT and focus on ensuring the successful application of this material in these field-cast joints.
If these mixes are viable for this application, Montana could take advantage of the cost savings of the non-proprietary mixes and ultimately improve the performance and durability of bridges. More information on this Phase II project is available here.
Geosynthetic materials are routinely used in transportation applications to facilitate construction, improve stability, and enhance longevity. Departments of transportation have generally had good experience with these products, although a robust and non-proprietary design process for geosynthetic reinforced paved roads is still lacking. The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) believes that geosynthetics can be used responsibly to provide cost-savings on a number of upcoming highway construction projects in the state, based on their in-house experience as well as previous research and evaluation by WTI. MDT desires experimental evidence of performance for these typical projects in order to proceed with future designs.
Principal Investigator Steve Perkins is leading a new study to conduct full-scale indoor testing of reinforced pavement test sections using a traffic simulator to provide performance data and to evaluate a spreadsheet-based design tool that can be used to augment current design procedures. The results from this study can be directly implemented into future MDT highway construction designs having similar conditions to the test sections. These recommendations will pertain most directly to operational conditions where a stable construction platform is established over relatively weak subgrade when it is advantageous to reduce base course thickness in order to save both time and money.
To follow this project, visit its webpage on the WTI website.