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Investigating Innovative Research Opportunities Related to Highway Infrastructure Design and Maintenance

Started: February, 2004 Ended: September, 2006 Project ID #425408 Status: Completed


The overall objective of this project is to develop the Highway Infrastructure Design and Maintenance program area at the Western Transportation Institute.


The state of the nation's transportation infrastructure was first rated in 2001, grading 12 infrastructure categories at an overall rate of D+, which is quite discouraging. At that time, roads and bridges were given a rating of D+ and C-, respectively.[1] A new report has recently been issued that gives roads the same rating and bridges a slightly higher rating of C. Notably, trends for roads are falling and bridges remain the same.[2] These issues, among many others, are of great concern to transportation officials nationwide and have certainly been the thrust of much of the research being presented at the annual Transportation Research Board conference in Washington DC.Due to the deluge of work that departments of transportation are facing given the low rating of the infrastructure, new and innovative ideas must be employed to ensure that 1) new designs are adequate to meet the heavy demands and 2) longevity of new infrastructure is assured. Historically, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has promoted technologies to enhance construction and maintenance of highway infrastructure. In a recent research symposium, FHWA has developed new initiatives for bridge research and technology deployment. Their thrusts include 1) accelerated repair and construction, 2) bridge and tunnel security, 3) bridge system preservation (management, inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation), and 4) load and resistance factor design (LRFD) implementation.[3]One way that the Western Transportation Institute has already stepped up to meet these challenges has been to help fund a project that uses instrumentation to monitor various bridge designs. Results from this research will help determine how different designs techniques may help alleviate premature distress. Even though many other research projects have been successful in the past, new technologies are constantly being conceived to ease the many problems faced by design and maintenance personnel. These new technologies need to be field tested, so partnering with scientists, contractors and departments of transportation to create test beds where new ideas can be studied will be of great benefit.Pavement designs are also changing rapidly. The American Association of State Transportation Highway Officials (AASHTO) began work some time ago to develop a better design for flexible pavements. Work in this area is being summarized in a new AASHTO Pavement Design Guide. This new mechanistic-empirical approach makes use of the mechanical properties of the various components of the pavement structure to describe and predict long-term behavior within design. Steve Perkins of the Civil Engineering Department at Montana State University is currently formulating a pavement design that incorporates geosynthetic materials as reinforcement. This approach will save state departments of transportation, and ultimately FHWA, significant resources by increasing life and reducing the cost of construction. Two projects at the Western Transportation Institute are currently involved in identifying material parameters and developing test protocols to be used in this future design methodology. To advance this work into the future, partnerships with multiple state departments of transportation will be formed to further define laboratory experiments necessary to determine appropriate material properties and models for design. Being a leader in creating a design for geosynthetic reinforced flexible pavements is also high priority due to higher demands being placed on highways and the need for increased pavement life. [1] American Society of Civil Engineers, Report Card for America's Infrastructure, March 2001.[2] American Society of Civil Engineers, Report Card for America's Infrastructure, September 2003.[3] Friedland, I.M & Small, E.P. Proceedings of the 2003 Mid-Continent Transportation Research Symposium, Ames, Iowa, August 2003.


Files & Documents

Sponsors & Partners

  • U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Sponsor
  • Research and Innovation Technology Administration (RITA) Sponsor

Part of: Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials, Infrastructure Longevity and Sustainability

Project Tagged In: Design Practices, geosynthetics, infrastructure

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