Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials

With progressive research and innovative thinking, the Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials program improves the design and maintenance of rural highway infrastructure. Rural transportation agencies need new solutions to increase infrastructure longevity and to ensure that new designs are adequate to meet increasing demands.

Program Overview

The Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials program area at WTI aims to use progressive research to improve the design and maintenance of rural highway infrastructure.

The nation’s aging transportation infrastructure has received a poor rating in recent reports due to increasing demands and limited resources for maintenance and expansion. These problems tend to be more acute in rural areas, where the highway or bridge system is the principal (and sometimes only) means of maintaining mobility between remote locations. Rural transportation agencies need new and innovative solutions to increase the longevity of existing and new infrastructure, and to ensure that new designs are adequate to meet increasing demands.

WTI conducts basic and applied research to address the immediate and long-term construction and maintenance needs of rural highway departments in the following areas:
Materials – Conduct research using new materials, such as geosynthetics or high performance concrete, to evaluate their benefit in new and rehabilitated highway structures.
Maintenance – Develop best management practices using cost-benefit analyses to help state highway departments select the most appropriate and cost-effective maintenance methods to extend the life of their facilities.
Monitoring – Test and evaluate instrumentation and remote sensing technologies to better monitor the condition of transportation infrastructure.

Ongoing Projects

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9 Projects

Highway Anti-Icing Products and Applications

Started December, 2016

Colorado DOT Research Program is interested in addressing some concerns expressed by maintenance personnel regarding slippery road conditions that may develop after conducting anti-icing treatments prior to a forecasted winter storm.  WTI is currently conducting a research project looking at road friction after deicing during winter storms.  This project will enable additional field trials, and provide an opportunity to measure friction after anti-icing applications.. .

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Performance of Asphalt Concrete Crack Sealants in South Dakota

Started November, 2016

The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) maintains nearly 8,000 miles of pavement throughout the state. In an effort to preserve resources and improve the quality of service, SDDOT is interested in updating their process for selecting and managing crack sealant products. Through this project, Principal Investigator Eli Cuelho, Program Manager for WTI’s Infrastracture Maintenance and Materials Program, will review the adequacy of their current specifications, and identify any new products and/or testing procedures applicable to South Dakota road conditions and climate

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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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9 Projects

Completed Projects

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81 Projects

Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved

Started November, 2014

The purpose of this project is to prepare a synthesis that identifies measures to analyze and objectively determine when to convert a paved surface to an unpaved surface, and to identify appropriate unpaved road maintenance and management strategies that will cost-effectively maintain these converted pavements in a good condition than.. .

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Relative Operational Performance of Geosynthetics Used as Subgrade Stabilization

Started December, 2011

The main objective of this project is to determine material properties of geosynthetics that affect in-field performance of geosynthetics used for subgrade stabilization, so that DOT personnel can objectively and confidently specify appropriate geosynthetics based on material properties and cost for a specific situation, while also allowing competition from different manufacturers.. .

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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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81 Projects

Our News

31 News Posts

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

Posted on April 6th, 2017

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.. View Full News Post »

Posted in: In The News

WTI Selected to Host International Conference

Posted on March 7th, 2017

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. View Full News Post »

MDT Highlights WTI Research Projects

Posted on February 22nd, 2017

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. View Full News Post »

Posted in: In The News, Research

Stateline Highlights Unpaved Roads Research

Posted on January 23rd, 2017

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. View Full News Post »

Posted in: In The News

MSU Students take Presentation Awards at I-HEEP Conference

Posted on September 27th, 2016

The Highway Engineering Exchange Program (HEEP) is an international organization that promotes advances in transportation engineering through the exchange of knowledge and information technology. The 2016 International HEEP Conference was held September 11-15 in Helena, Montana. HEEP offers a student competition with cash prizes as part of its Educator Student Participation Program (ESP). View Full News Post »

Welcome to the Unpaved Roads Institute

Posted on September 15th, 2016

The Road Dust Institute (RDI) has changed its name to the Unpaved Roads Institute (URi) to better reflect the increased interest general unpaved road management issues. We would like to welcome you to our new website.  First conceptualized in 2008, we are continually evolving with input and support from our founding partners and the Federal Lands Highway of FHWA. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Outreach, Tech Transfer

AASHTO selects Asphalt Pavement Project for National Recognition

Posted on July 21st, 2016

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has selected a WTI project as one of its national “Sweet Sixteen” High Value Research Projects. WTI researchers Ning Xie, Natalie Villwock-Witte, and Laura Fay led a project for the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) entitled “Optimization of Elastic Polymer Modification Rates Based on Contemporary Relative Costs vs. Benefits,” which looked at the costs and benefits of the use of polymer modified binders for asphalt pavements. View Full News Post »

Geosynthetics testing

Posted on August 26th, 2015

Eli Cuelho’s work in Geosynthetics in Subgrade Stabilization project, Geosythetica.net announces TenCate Mirafi® RS580i outperformed all geosynthetics tested by WTI. TenCate Geosynthetics develops and produces synthetic fabrics, non-wovens, wovens and geogrids, and creates design solutions and systems for infrastructure and civil technology. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

2nd Road Dust Best Management Practices Conference—Save the Date!

Posted on April 28th, 2011

Article from WTI eNews April 2011 Las Vegas, Nevada - November 7-9, 2011 The 2011 Road Dust Best Management Practices Conference will bring together local, state and county road practitioners, as well as researchers and federal agencies to discuss current practices, identify best practices and share lessons learned, to enhance the management of dust on unpaved roads. The themes of the 2011 Road Dust Best Management Practices Conference will be Environmental Compatibility and Sustainability, General and International Best Practices, and Unique and Extreme Conditions. The conference will feature national and international experts presenting current best management practices and will use presentations and poster sessions, roundtable dialogue and training sessions to accomplish this. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Event

Colter Roskos presents at National Science Foundation conference

Posted on April 28th, 2011

Civil Engineering graduate research assistant Colter Roskos presented a poster at the National Science Foundation's Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation Division Grantees Conference, which was held January 3-7, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Colter's paper on "Building Green: Development and Evaluation of the Design Properties of an Environmentally Friendly Concrete" will also be published in the conference proceedings.. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Presentation, Student

Transcend Facility Update: Snow guns

Posted on April 5th, 2010

Does your project need an open road? Located in Central Montana at the former Lewistown airport, Transcend's research facility offers four miles of real-world paved test surface, a highly innovative, multidisciplinary research staff, and a comprehensive communications, power, and data networking infrastructure allowing innovations to make the jump from the laboratory to the real world. In short, it is the only laboratory of its kind: diverse, isolated, and ready to test, develop, and research virtually any innovation that relies on the open road. And while the real world features extreme weather and conditions, the facility takes a step forward and features a few perks the real world doesn’t like instant wet weather, a highly innovative, multidisciplinary research team and the diagnostics to ensure every test is accurate and valuable. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

Researchers complete a man-made snow event.

Posted on March 20th, 2010

WTI researchers completed a man-made snow event for the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters Inhibitor Longevity and Deicer Performance Study. The goal of this event was to evaluate corrosion inhibitor longevity in anti-icers after roadway application following a significant snow event. Three inhibited chloride anti-icers were applied with a specially designed applicator trailer. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

WTI staff held a snowmaking event in February

Posted on March 20th, 2010

Snowmaking: WTI staff held a snowmaking event in February to check and tune the snowmaking equipment. Based on data from this event, the fan guns will be updated with new weather stations and nozzle upgrades to make snow more consistently and efficiently at temperatures slightly below freezing. Snowmaking equipment upgrades will be completed by next winter. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

WTI personnel completed the third Field Operational Test.

Posted on March 10th, 2010

WTI personnel completed the third Field Operational Test for the Caltrans Establishing Best Practices of Snow and Ice Removal research project. Similar to previous tests for this project, chemicals were applied late in the afternoon with air and pavement temperatures above freezing. Once the pavement temperature fell below freezing, snow was applied and compacted overnight using the Transcend snowmaking system and a smooth drum compactor. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

Transcend Advisory Committee Meeting February 24, 2010

Posted on February 24th, 2010

The Transcend Advisory Committee met on February 24, 2010 via the web to review the history of the facility as well as projects underway and the current status of facility development. The Advisory Committee provides guidance on potential research opportunities as well as serving as a sounding board for research ideas and the usefulness of the research for practitioners.. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

WTI researchers initiate a "Black Ice" event for the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters

Posted on February 10th, 2010

WTI researchers initiated a "Black Ice" event for the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters. The goal of this event is to evaluate the duration corrosion inhibitors last when applied to pavement in anticipation of frost or black ice. Applications of three inhibited chloride chemicals were sampled immediately after application and will continue to be sampled for the next seven days in order to quantify the presence of the corrosion inhibitors. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

First Field Test for Snow and Ice Removal

Posted on January 26th, 2010

WTI crews completed the first Field Operational Test for the Caltrans Establishing Best Practices of Snow and Ice Removal research project. Chemicals were applied late in the afternoon with cold air and pavement temperatures. Snow was applied and compacted overnight using the Transcend snowmaking system and a smooth drum compactor. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

TRANSCEND Lab Aquires Portable Lighting Equipment

Posted on December 4th, 2009

Transcend researchers acquired portable lighting equipment and additional snow removal equipment to facilitate snow making and winter research. The portable lighting equipment is used for nighttime snowmaking operations. Typically, it is easier to make snow during the night because the surface and air temperatures are more stable which creates a more consistent product. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

WTI will be initiating a Road Dust Institute

Posted on December 4th, 2009

December 2009 — The Western Transportation Institute will be initiating a Road Dust Institute. This initiative will foster partnerships and promote research, education, and technology transfer to ensure best management practices for dust control. The Road Dust Institute is a part of the Western Transportation Institute's strategic direction, aiding growth of the Road Dust Management and Future Needs Conference and supporting dust related research, such as the National Scan of Best Practices for Chemical Treatments on Unpaved Roads. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Outreach, Research

Animal Detection Systems Tested and Reviewed

Posted on November 10th, 2009

November 2009 — Researchers tested the reliability of the MagalSenstar animal detection system. The livestock contractor delivered 6 animals (2 horses, 2 llamas, and 2 sheep) to the test site and a test was initiated on November 18 2009. The tests lasted for 10 consecutive days after which the animals were removed from the enclosure. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

CSIL & WTI staff host a field site visit at Transcend

Posted on November 4th, 2009

Researchers from the Corrosion and Sustainable Infrastructure Laboratory (CSIL), WTI, hosted a field site visit at Transcend, in conjunction with a project meeting, for the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters Association (PNS) members. There is currently a project underway that is being conducted by WTI researchers for the PNS members which focuses on the longevity of stored deicers, including winter field testing at Transcend. Members of this pooled fund effort toured the research facility; including the deicer storage facilities, the snow making system, and the field site where winter testing is scheduled to begin in early 2010. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Outreach, Staff

Animal Detection Systems Testbed Research News

Posted on August 4th, 2009

Researchers traveled to the Transcend facility to install another animal detection in the RADS testbed area. This system consists of a buried cable that detects large mammals when they move across the cable. The system is manufactured by Magal Senstar from Ontario, Canada. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Research

WTI employees & invited guests from MSU travel to Transcend

Posted on July 9th, 2009

Western Transportation Institute employees and invited guests from MSU traveled to Transcend for a site visit. Attendees toured the facilities, discussed current and future research opportunities, potential partnerships, and benefits of conducting their research at Transcend. They also toured the newly completed shop and checked out the snowmaking system which is now fully operational. View Full News Post »

Posted in: Outreach

31 News Posts

Our Staff