Infrastructure Longevity and Sustainability

The Infrastructure Longevity and Sustainability program area at WTI pursues research to improve the design, construction, and maintenance of rural highway infrastructure, with a focus on physical longevity and environmental sustainability.

Our unique expertise centers on addressing challenges faced by transportation agencies responsible for operating road networks in a rural environment:

  • Designing and maintaining low-volume roads, including paving options, dust control, and condition monitoring
  • Identifying cost-effective and durable structural materials, including newer alternatives such as recycled and geosynthetic options
  • Managing roadside environmentsthat affect structural integrity, including slope stability, erosion control, and vegetation management.

The Challenge

In recent reports, the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure has received poor ratings due to increasing demands and limited resources for maintenance and expansion. The issue is often magnified in rural areas, where limited routes and budgets require tough decisions to be made on road and bridge maintenance and surfacing. To address this challenge, we utilize the knowledge of the past and innovative solutions to find solutions to maintenance, preservation, and new construction needs.

What We Do

With our in-house research staff and affiliated faculty, our program features a diverse combination of expertise in civil, mechanical, and industrial engineering, materials science and engineering, environmental science, road ecology, data analysis and modeling, and related field. We offer inter-disciplinary teams that serve complex user needs.

Our end goal is to provide tools and resources that facilitate the daily operations, management and planning responsibilities of transportation practitioners.  Examples of recent projects include:

  • Developing an App to document, rate, and track unstable slope conditions in public lands
  • As the state of the practice of on unpaving and development of guide for unpaving
  • Formulating a non-proprietary, affordable version of ultra-high performance concrete using locally-sourced materials for the Montana Department of Transportation.
  • Identifying best practices that facilitate identification, inspection and maintenance of culverts and other underground drainage infrastructure assets, including recommendations for implementation of a Culvert Asset Management System (CAMS).

Our Research Partners

As a pioneer in the field of rural transportation solutions, WTI has been at the forefront of developing specialized research partnerships to meet rural infrastructure needs.

  • WTI spearheaded the creation of the Road Dust Institute, which expanded into the Unpaved Roads Institute, in partnership with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
  • WTI plays a leadership role in the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Low Volume Roads and was recently selected to host the TRBÂ International Conference on Low Volume Roadsin Montana in 2019.

We also work closely with many other prominent research partners, including:

  • National Center for Rural Road Safety
  • Center for Sustainable Transportation in Cold Climates (University of Alaska, Fairbanks)
  • USDOT, National Cooperative Highway Research Programs
  • World Bank
  • National Academy of Sciences, Transportation Research Board
  • American Public Works Association
  • International Erosion Control Association
  • Montana Local Transportation Assistance Program (LTAP)

Contact usto find out how to put this multi-disciplinary group to work for you and fast-track your needs for problem-driven, solution-oriented research.

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14 Projects

Feasibility of Non-Proprietary Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) for use in Highway Bridges in Montana: Phase II Field Application

Started March, 2018

The objective of this project is to further characterize the non-proprietary UHPC mixes developed in the Phase I research, and ensure its successful application in field-cast joints. This objective will be achieved by (1) investigating the potential variability in concrete performance related to differences in constituent materials, (2) investigating issues related to the field batching/mixing of the these UHPC mixes, and (3) testing rebar bond strength and studying how this will affect requisite development lengths..

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Quantifying Salt Concentration On Pavement, Phase 2

Started April, 2016

The objectives of this research project are to identify existing and developing technology for mobile chloride detection that provide real time data, test the feasibility and reliability of the technology, and determine if this technology can be used real time by winter maintenance practitioners in the decision making process.. .

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Mitigation of Expansive Soils in South Dakota

Started April, 2015

The objective of this project is to update the South Dakota Department of Transportation specifications and construction guidelines related to designing and constructing roads in areas containing subgrade soils with high potential for expansion and/or shrinkage.. .

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Evaluation of Reinforcement Strain Growth During Traffic Loading – UTC

Started May, 2004

The objective of this project is to establish the feasibility of using geosynthetic strain measurements from reinforced pavement test sections to establish relationships between a permanent to resilient strain ratio and a normalized traffic pass level. This information is needed as input to a design method for reinforced pavements previously established in a project for FHWA..

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14 Projects

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80 Projects

Culvert Asset Management System Best Practices/Pilot Project

Started March, 2016

The final report identified best practices for culvert asset management systems in state departments of transportation (DOTs).  Researchers conducted an extensive literature review and surveyed state DOTs, with 47 states responding.  In the survey, 33 states reported that they inspect small culverts.  Nineteen states reported that they had culvert inspection manuals. The survey also found that culvert inspections are carried out by DOT maintenance staff, student or summer interns/workers, bridge inspectors, or central staff. Twenty-one state DOTs reported that they provided culvert inspection training, either developed in-house (15 states) or based on bridge inspection (6 states).  Researchers also identified the most common data fields collected in culvert inspection and inventory databases, as well as the most common technologies (e.g., Trimble, iPad, paper, or a combination) used for field collection of data.  Photos are incorporated into the inventory data system in 21 states.  Inventory software included state-developed systems, Agile Assets, and AASHTOWare.

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Feasibility of Non-Proprietary Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) for use in Highway Bridges in Montana

Started April, 2015

As described in greater detail in the final report, the investigation yielded several conclusions including: suitable materials for use in ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) can be easily obtained in the state of Montana; the initial 4-variable central composite design (CCD) proved to be an efficient tool for characterizing the effect of the various concrete constituents on the performance of UHPC; the follow-on 3-variable CCD also proved to be a very useful tool for characterizing the effects of the various concrete constituents on the performance of UHPC, and also proved useful for optimization; batch size and mixing method were observed to have a significant effect on resultant plastic and hardened concrete properties; the mechanical and durability tests performed on the selected UHPC mix demonstrated the exceptional mechanical properties and durability of this material; and overall this research demonstrated that self-consolidating, non-proprietary UHPC mixes can be made economically (less than $1,000/yd3) with materials readily available in the state of Montana.
. .

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Development of a 3/4-inch Minus Base Course Type A Specification for Montana

Started December, 2014

The final report summarizes the work to develop a new specification, which included conducting a review of current ¾-inch minus specifications from around the U.S., using that
information to generate a preliminary specification to create ¾-inch minus mixes, testing the material properties of these mixes, and modifying these mixes to determine the effect changes in the gradation primarily had on its strength, stiffness and permeability. Based on the results of multiple statistical evaluations as well as qualitative
comparisons, it was concluded that a ¾-inch minus gradation specification will perform at least as well as Montana’s existing CBC-6A materials and better than CBC-5A materials. Gradation limits for a new ¾-inch minus, Grade 7A, crushed base course were suggested; however, the practicality of producing mixes that fit within the suggested gradation limits still needs to be determined.

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Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved

Started November, 2014

The survey conducted for this project identified 48 local, state, and federal agencies that have conducted road conversions and nine more that are considering this action. Almost 70 conversion
projects were identified and a total of 550 miles of road converted to unpaved.  In seeking a cost-effective alternative to continued maintenance and repair of deteriorating pavement, agencies have begun to recognize that many roads with very low traffic volumes can be maintained more economically and at a higher level of service with an unpaved or granular surface.

 

Final Report available in documents below or through the TRB (National Academies of Sciences) website.

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Investigation of Prefabricated Steel-Truss Bridge Deck Systems

Started September, 2014

As described in the final report, this research evaluated both a conventional cast in place deck system and an accelerated bridge deck system (cast integral with the truss) for the bolted/welded steel truss bridge. A 3D finite element model was used to more accurately calculate the distribution of lane and truck loads to the individual trusses. Truss
members and connections for both construction alternatives were designed using loads from AASHTO Strength I, Fatigue I, and Service II load combinations

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Evaluation of Plus Grades of Performance Grade (PC) Asphalt Binder

Started January, 2014

This research documented current knowledge and practice related to evaluation of plus grades of performance graded (PG) asphalt binder, with a focus on the scenarios of interest to NMDOT. The synthesis in the final report mainly includes a discussion of the following issues: history of polymer modified binders (PMBs) for asphalt pavement, selection of polymer for asphalt modification, evaluation of PMB properties, binder specifications for PMBs, cost analysis, recommendations, and future work. Recent years have seen the introduction of PG Plus Binders, the success of which hinges on the use of elastomer and/or rubber for binder modification

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Feasibility of Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement as Aggregate in Portland Cement Concrete Pavements, Phase II

Started September, 2012

The final report describes the results of the field demonstration project and the mixture optimization investigation. As part of the field demonstration project, two RAP-concrete slabs were cast on a roadway near Lewistown, MT, and monitored for damage, shrinkage, and curling over a two-year period. There were no logistical issues associated with the construction of the slabs, and no damage and only minor shrinkage/curling was observed

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Deep Patch Repair, Phase 2

Started September, 2012

The objective of this research is to validate the deep patch road repair design technique developed in Phase I by constructing a small-scale field test section and/or performing several scaled model laboratory tests.. .

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Evaluating Fire Damaged Components of Historic Covered Bridges, Post-Fire Assessment Guidelines and Techniques

Started August, 2012

The objectives of this research were to survey existing approaches to post-fire evaluations based on their relevance to historic covered timber bridges; customize a non-destructive technique for determining the residual capacity of individual, fire-damaged, glued laminated beams; and produce a “how-to” guide comprised of guidelines and techniques for conducting post-fire evaluations.. .

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Relative Operational Performance of Geosynthetics Used as Subgrade Stabilization

Started December, 2011

As described in the final report, full-scale test sections were constructed, trafficked and monitored to compare the relative operational performance of geosynthetics used as subgrade stabilization as well as determine which material properties are most related to performance. Seventeen, 50-ft. long test sections were constructed – fourteen containing geosynthetic reinforcement and three without

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Geosynthetic Design and Specification Review and Update

Started June, 2011

As described in the final report, Alaska geosynthetic specifications were thoroughly reviewed, and modifications to their existing specifications were suggested based on information from multiple sources accumulated from decades of research and experience from manufacturers, designers, researchers and practitioners. Changes were suggested to update the specification to:
1) improve clarity and flow, make formatting and layout consistent with other Alaska specifications, and maintain active voice,
2) update content to make it more consistent with standard practice, design, recent developments in materials and design, and existing state and federal specifications, and
3) make it consistent with the unique Alaska conditions or standard practices..

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Testing and Evaluation of Recovered Traction Sanding Material

Started April, 2011

As described in the final report, an analysis of reuse and recycle options for salvaged traction sand was conducted using results of mechanical and chemical tests
conducted on samples collected along the Bozeman Pass and the Lookout Pass areas. The results indicate there are viable alternatives to landfilling or roadside dumping of collected traction sand. The most appealing and cost-effective option is to reuse the collected material as traction sand in subsequent winters

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Evaluation of a New Arch Bridge Technology for Short Spans

Started March, 2011

The objective of this research is to conduct a review of the Bridge-in-a-Backpack system – a new construction technology for a corrosion-resistant arch bridge – and other traditional crossing systems that may be used in Montana, to determine where they can be applied with maximum efficacy.. .

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Corrosion Monitoring System for Existing Reinforced Concrete Structures – UTC

Started January, 2011

As described in the final report, this study developed and evaluated in the laboratory a multi-parameter corrosionmonitoring system for existing reinforced concrete structures in chloride-laden service environments. The study improved and validated the SwRI corrosion sensor prototype for use in the concrete corrosion monitoring system; developed algorithms for quality control and interpretation of the sensor data; made viable recommendations to implement the corrosion monitoring system for existing DOT inventories of RC bridges; and delivered a deployable prototype corrosion sensing system for DOTs to continue field evaluations. The performance and reliability of the SwRI corrosion sensor were confirmed by the benchmark test in simulated concrete pore solutions

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Cost-Effective and Sustainable Road Slope Stabilization and Erosion Control

Started December, 2010

The final synthesis presents information on cost-effective and sustainable road slope stabilization techniques, with a focus on shallow or near-surface slope stabilization and related erosion control methods used on low-volume roads. To fully address this topic planning and site investigation are discussed as well as erosion control techniques, soil bioengineering and biotechnical techniques, mechanical stabilization and earthwork techniques..

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Evaluation of Deep Patch Landslide Mitigation Design Methodology

Started September, 2010

As described in the final report, the research team evaluated the deep patch slope repair methodology by analytical methods and field observations for the purpose of developing a simple design method suitable for use by Federal Lands Highway and Forest Service personnel. Literature was reviewed, current design methodologies were documented and site visits were conducted to better understand how the deep patch methodology has been used in the past, to evaluate the performance of in-service deep patch sites and to help authenticate the newly proposed design method. An analytical study was conducted to model the effects of various slope configurations, failure mechanisms, deep
patch design geometries, and type of geosynthetics using 2D and 3D computer modeling software

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Feasilbity of Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement as Aggregate in Portland Cement Concrete Pavements – UTC

Started January, 2010

As described in the final report, this research demonstrated that concretes with up to 50 percent of the fine aggregates and 100 percent of the coarse aggregates replaced with RAP were suitable for concrete pavement. A statistical experimental design procedure (response surface methodology – RSM) was used to investigate proportioning RAP concrete mixtures to achieve desired performance criteria. Based on the results of the RSM investigation, two concrete mixtures were selected for further evaluation: a high RAP mix with fine and coarse aggregate replacement rates of 50 and 100 percent respectively, and a “high” strength mix with one half of the RAP used in the high RAP mix

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Feasilbity of Reclaimed Ashphalt Pavement as Aggregate in Portland Cement Concrete Pavements

Started January, 2010

As described in the final report, this research demonstrated that concretes with up to 50 percent of the fine aggregates and 100 percent of the coarse aggregates replaced with RAP were suitable for concrete pavement. A statistical experimental design procedure (response surface methodology – RSM) was used to investigate proportioning RAP concrete mixtures to achieve desired performance criteria. Based on the results of the RSM investigation, two concrete mixtures were selected for further evaluation: a high RAP mix with fine and coarse aggregate replacement rates of 50 and 100 percent respectively, and a “high” strength mix with one half of the RAP used in the high RAP mix

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National Scan of Best Practices for Road Dust Control and Soil Stabilization

Started August, 2009

The purpose of the National Scan is to examine programs and practices employed by different governmental agencies and contractors that result in effective dust control and/or soil stabilization on unpaved roads. The driving force behind this scan is that road dust and/or the additives used in its control pose a myriad of health, safety, economic, regulatory, and environmental challenges..

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Validation of Rehab Strategies to Extent the Service Life of Concrete Bridge Decks – UTC

Started August, 2008

The objective of this research is to investigate the long-term effectiveness of Caltrans’ preservation and rehabilitation strategies for concrete bridge decks. Caltrans currently employs high molecular weight methacrylate (HMWM)-based crack sealing and polyester overlay. This research will also explore the value of Portland cement concrete (PCC) and asphalt concrete (AC) overlays on bridge decks, and identify the appropriate treatment time and frequency for these strategies.

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Validation of Rehab Strategies of Extend the Service Life of Concrete Bridge Decks

Started July, 2008

The objective of this research is to investigate the long-term effectiveness of Caltrans’ preservation and rehabilitation strategies for concrete bridge decks. Caltrans currently employs high molecular weight methacrylate (HMWM)-based crack sealing and polyester overlay. This research will also explore the value of Portland cement concrete (PCC) and asphalt concrete (AC) overlays on bridge decks, and identify the appropriate treatment time and frequency for these strategies.

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The Nature Aggregate-Asphalt Bond: A Lab Study

Started February, 2008

This research is directed at developing a laboratory-based test method to investigate the nature of the aggregate–asphalt bond using different analyticochemistry analysis approaches. The project proposes to identify the mechanisms that contribute to adhesive failure of asphalt mixes, to understand the contribution of material properties (asphalt and aggregate structure) to the adhesive failure of mixes, to understand the contribution of mixture properties, and to develop a test to evaluate the adhesive failure of mixes..

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Validating the Durability of Corrosion Resistant Mineral Admixture Concrete (04-GS108)

Started June, 2006

Corrosion of reinforced and prestressed concrete structures is a major and increasing problem worldwide. Possibly half of the US’s 500,000 bridges require immediate attention and the total repair bill is estimated at $90 billion (Dunker and Rabbat, 1993).  The remediation of concrete bridges in the US, undertaken as a direct result of chloride-induced corrosion of the reinforcing steel, would cost the US highway departments $5 billion per year (FHWA, 1999).

 

Caltrans owns and maintains approximately 15,000 bridges with spans over 20 feet, and there are an equal number in the city and county systems.  Caltrans construction (primarily bridge construction) averaged almost $1.3 billion per year over the 1988-1992 period, and the majority of California highway bridges are prestressed or reinforced structures (Hampson and Fischer, 1997).  In both types of structures, the corrosion of steel reinforcement in concrete is a significant problem.

 

The cost of maintenance and rehabilitation required to reserve the structural integrity and overall safety of Caltrans highway structures is phenomenal. Repeated rehabilitation and repair also incur a significant environmental toll, as well as the delays caused by closing roads or bridges.   On the other hand, appropriate design for corrosion protection would generate substantial cost savings for the Department by minimizing the premature rehabilitation or failure of highway bridges and reducing the construction costs.

The research will produce valuable information to be used by the Caltrans Design Engineer and may lead to improvements to the current Caltrans BDS in mitigating chloride-induced corrosion and deterioration.  In addition to the validation of corrosion mitigation design assumptions, the research results will also assist the Department to rapidly evaluate concrete mixes designed with new mineral admixtures, allowing implementation of cost-effective corrosion mitigation strategies while providing safe and reliable structures for the traveling public.

This research could lead to additional research phases as necessary, such as the development and field evaluation of various types of high performance corrosion resistant concretes.  With extended service life and reduced need for costly and difficult repair and rehabilitation of bridge structures, the implementation of better design practices will have immediate positive impact on the California highway system, including cost savings, enhanced traveler safety, reduced traveler delays, and minimized environmental impacts.

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Cold-Region & Rural Transportation Research, Maintenance & Operations Test-Bed: Project Development Task

Started December, 2005

The purpose of this project is to conduct initial development tasks that will create a prioritized, funded research program for the facility, and establish Montana as a national and international leader in cold region rural transportation research. This project provides federal match funding for the development of the Lewistown Airport Cold Region Rural Transportation Research Facility (eventually called TRANSCEND)..

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Life-Cycle Costing of Thermo-Plastic Pavement Markings

Started April, 2002

To determine whether it is cost-effective to use TP pavement markings in urban areas within the state of Montana. Specifically, this investigation will provide:· detailed descriptions of TP and other alternative pavement marking materials· cost/benefit analyses for each pavement marking alternativeThis information will indicate to both MDT and Montana contractors whether or not the use of TP in Montana urban areas is cost-effective..

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Field Evaluation of the Performance of Three Concrete Bridge Decks on Montana Route 243 – UTC

Started February, 2002

The objective of this project is to investigate the performance of three different types of concrete bridge decks, namely: a conventionally reinforced deck made with standard concrete, designed and constructed following standard practices of MDT’s Bridge Bureau; a deck with reduced reinforcement made with normal concrete, designed following the empirical design approach presented in the AASHTO LRFD Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges and constructed following standard MDT practice; and a conventionally reinforced deck made with high performance concrete (HPC) developed following FHWA guidelines.. .

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Geosynthetic Pullout Behavior under Small Displacements

Started July, 2001

To investigate the pullout behavior of several geosynthetic materials embedded in soils to provide interaction properties for a finite element model. The finite element modeling, which is not part of this project, is based on a large-scale simulation of a geosynthetic reinforced pavement structure..

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Crack Sealing Cost Effectiveness Project

Started October, 1995

The objective of this research study is to determine the most economical and effective materials and methods for sealing cracks in flexible pavements in the state of Montana. This investigation involves the placement of experimental test sections as part of larger crack sealing projects, followed by visual monitoring. Several sealant materials and several sealing techniques have been included in this investigation.

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80 Projects