MDT Research Newsletter Profiles Three WTI Projects

WTI research is prominently featured in the new issue of Solutions, the research newsletter of the Montana Department of Transportation.  Three recently completed projects are profiled in feature articles:

  • “Prefabricated Steel Truss/Bridge Deck Systems.” This study was a WTI and MSU Civil Engineering project led by Damon Fick, Tyler Kuehl, Michael Berry, and Jerry Stephens. It evaluated a prototype of a welded steel truss constructed with an integral concrete deck, which has been proposed as a potential alternative for accelerated bridge construction (ABC) projects in Montana. Steel truss bridges are relatively light weight compared with plate girder systems, which makes them a desirable alternative for both material savings and constructability. See the WTI website for more information.
  • “Evaluation of Effectiveness and Cost-Benefits of Woolen Roadside Reclamation Products.” This research project developed three types of products for study: woolen erosion control blankets (ECBs), wool incorporated into wood fiber compost, and wool incorporated into silt fence. The project, supported by Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Transportation in Cold Climates, compared the wool products’ performance to roadside reclamation products commonly used for revegetating cut slopes. Rob Ament (P.I.) and Eli Cuelho served on the research team. Additional information is available on the WTI website.
  • “Feasibility of Non-Proprietary Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) for Use in Highway Bridges in Montana.” 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, costing 20 times that of conventional concrete. The overall objective of the Phase I research was to develop and characterize economical non-proprietary UHPC mixes made with materials readily available in Montana. The research was led by Michael Berry. Additional project information is available on the WTI website.

The MDT Solutions newsletter is available on the MDT website.

To Pave or Not to Pave?

Web-thumb-screen capture of cracked road surface.WTI Research Scientist Laura Fay was interviewed last week by MINNPOST.com on the topic of local road agencies that choose to unpave roads.  The discussion focused on Laura’s research sponsored by the Transportation Research Board, in which she surveyed local, state, or federal agencies on how they manage low-volume roads.  The survey identified nearly 70 road projects in 27 states in which the road agency chose to convert a road to an unpaved, gravel road instead of re-paving it.  The project will also result in a guidebook to help local officials decide if unpaving a road is safe and cost-effective.  Read the full article here or go to the WTI website for more information about the research project.

Two New Research Reports Released: Wool Reclamation Products and High Performance Concrete

The Montana Department of Transportation has released the final reports for two projects by WTI researchers:

  • “Evaluation of Effectiveness and Cost-Benefits of Woolen Roadside Reclamation Products.” This research project developed three types of products for study: woolen erosion control blankets (ECBs), wool incorporated into wood fiber compost, and wool incorporated into silt fence. The project, supported by Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Transportation in Cold Climates, compared the wool products’ performance to roadside reclamation products commonly used for revegetating cut slopes. Rob Ament (P.I.) and Eli Cuelho served on the research team. The final report and project summary are available on the MDT website. Additional information and all of the reports related to this project are available on the WTI website.
  • “Feasibility of Non-Proprietary Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) for Use in Highway Bridges in Montana.” 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, costing 20 times that of conventional concrete. The overall objective of the Phase I research was to develop and characterize economical non-proprietary UHPC mixes made with materials readily available in Montana. The research was led by Michael Berry. The final report and project summary are available on the MDT website and additional project information is available on the WTI website.

New Report on Prefabricated Bridge Decks

The Montana Department of Transportation has released the final report for “Investigation of Prefabricated Steel Truss/Bridge Deck Systems,” a WTI and MSU Civil Engineering project led by Damon Fick, Tyler Kuehl, Michael Berry, and Jerry Stephens. The study evaluated a prototype of a welded steel truss constructed with an integral concrete deck, which has been proposed as a potential alternative for accelerated bridge construction (ABC) projects in Montana.  Steel truss bridges are relatively light weight compared with plate girder systems, which makes them a desirable alternative for both material savings and constructability. The full report and a summary report are available on the MDT website.  Additional project information is available on the WTI website.

Dates Announced for International Conference on Low Volume Roads

WTI will host the 12th Transportation Research Board (TRB) International Conference on Low Volume Roads on September 15-18, 2019 in Kalispell, Montana. Sponsored by TRB, this conference examines new technologies and new techniques in the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and administration of low-volume roads. Panelists will explore case studies and practical solutions to common problems related to all aspects of low-volume roads.  TRB, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, announced the dates in its November 20 newsletter. For more information, contact Laura Fay at WTI or Nancy Whiting at TRB.

New York Times Gives Shout Out to WTI’s Unpaved Roads Report

Start spreading the news… Recently, the New York Times published a feature article titled “Omaha’s Answer to Potholes? Go Back to Gravel Roads,”describing cities that are choosing to maintain low usage streets in disrepair by converting them back to gravel roads as a lower-cost alternative to repaving. The article cites the NCHRP study on unpaved roads authored by WTI Program Manager Laura Fay, which documented similar conversions in 27 states across the country, as well as best practices for this type of road project.

WTI Selected to Host International Conference

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Low Volume Roads Committee has selected the Western Transportation Institute to host the 12th TRB International Conference on Low Volume Roads in Montana. WTI proposed the Flathead Valley of northwest Montana (Kalispell/Whitefish) as the venue for the Spring/Summer 2019 meeting, which will bring 150-300 participants and presenters to the area. The Flathead Valley provides an ideal location for conducting field tours of local low volume roads within a 30 minute drive, not to mention the proximity of Glacier National Park. Special thanks to the U.S. Forest Service (Flathead National Forest) and the Northwest Tribal Technical Assistance Program for their letters of support for the WTI application. There will be opportunities for WTI staff to assist during the event, as well as develop papers for publication and present at the conference, host booths (UTCs, Transcend, etc.), and more, so stay tuned for more information.

MDT Highlights WTI Research Projects

The Montana Department of Transportation selected multiple MDT/WTI collaborative research projects to highlight in its Winter 2017 Research Newsletter.  Eli Cuelho’s project to develop a standard specification for a new gravel base course design was featured on the front page (“Development of a ¾-inch Minus Base Course Type A Specification for Montana”).  The newsletter also provides an update on the Traffic Safety Culture Transportation Pooled Fund, which is a joint effort by the Center for Health and Safety Culture, WTI, MDT and nine other states.  In addition, there is a feature article about one of the Pooled Fund projects (“An Assessment of Traffic Safety Culture Related to Driving After Cannabis Use”), a study conducted by Nic Ward, Jay Otto, Kari Finleyand Kelly Green. To read the full issue of MDT’s newsletter “Solutions,” click here.

Stateline Highlights Unpaved Roads Research

Stateline, a national website covering trends in state policy, published a feature story on a recent WTI project on the pros, cons, and costs of converting low-volume paved roads to unpaved roads. In “Dirt Roads Help Some Cities, Counties Drive Down Costs,” Stateline interviewed Principal Investigator Laura Fay about her research for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, which sought to explore how commonly and under what conditions transportation agencies are converting paved roads to unpaved roads. Through a national survey, the project identified 48 agencies that have completed conversions, 70 conversion projects, and 550 miles of converted roadway. Click here to read the Stateline article.