Roadside fencing that protects endangered turtles, a toolkit for identifying potentially acid-producing rock and a device that could save MnDOT $200 million a year in pavement damage are just a few of the advancements that MnDOT hopes to make in the near future, thanks to seven recently funded research implementation projects.
Each spring, the governing board for MnDOT’s research program funds initiatives that help put new technology or research advances into practice. This year’s picks aim to improve the environment, reporting of traffic signal data, notification of lane closures and the design and quality of pavements.
Here’s a brief look at the projects (full proposals here):
Protecting the Environment and Wildlife
To avoid the leaching of potentially acid-generating rock during excavation projects, MnDOT hopes to develop a GIS-based risk-screening tool that identifies areas where PAG rock might be encountered. Guidance will be developed for identifying and handling PAG rock.
Found in bedrock throughout the state – especially northern Minnesota, PAG minerals can release acid upon contact with air or water, a danger to aquatic and human life.
“Anytime we dig, there is the potential to expose this stuff,” said Jason Richter, chief geologist.
Reducing roadway access for small animals, including endangered turtles, is a priority for MnDOT and the Minnesota Department of Resources. MnDOT will analyze the effectiveness of different types of small animal exclusion fences tried across the state and develop a standard set of designs for future projects.
Improved Reporting of Traffic Signal Data
A centralized hub of traffic signal data could benefit future vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications and assist with the modeling of transportation project impacts. Methods and tools will be developed for a regional database of intersection control information that extracts data from MnDOT’s recently acquired Central Traffic Signal Control System and soon-to-be adopted Signal Performance Measure application.
Real-Time Notice of Lane Closures
In this pilot project, 20 MnDOT arrow board messages will be equipped with technology that automatically reports lane closures on 511 and highway message boards, providing more timely motorist notification.
Longer-Lasting Roads and Improved Quality Control
This summer, a new quality assurance device called the Rolling Density Meter will be deployed on several pavement projects, eliminating the need for destructive sample cores.
“This is the ultimate in compaction control,” said Glenn Engstrom, Office of Materials and Road Research director. If contractors obtain the right level of density when paving asphalt roads, MnDOT could eliminate $200 million per year in premature road failure.
In 2018, MnDOT plans to require Intelligent Compaction (a pavement roller technology that reduces workmanship issues) on all significant asphalt projects. A vehicle-mounted mobile imaging device will be piloted that collects necessary supportive roadway alignment data, without the need for survey crews.
Upgrades to MnDOT’s pavement design software, MnPAVE, (incorporating recycled unbound and conventional base material properties) will help increase the service life of Minnesota roads.
Project champions take previously proven concepts and help MnDOT turn them into useful practices and procedures to make the state’s transportation system better. Funds can be used for equipment, consultant services or researcher assistance.
“The research implementation program fills the gap between research and deployment of new methods, materials and equipment,” Bruce Holdhusen, MnDOT Research Services senior engineer, said.
Here are the 12 newly funded research implementation projects by category:
Bridge and Structures
Improving Quality of Bridge Inspections Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Prestressed Concrete Beam Shear Rating
OmniScan Phased Array Ultrasonic Corrosion Imaging System
MnDOT Slope Vulnerability Assessments
Ultra-thin Bonded Wearing Course (UTBWC) Snow and Ice and Wind Effects
Materials and Construction
Cold In-Place Recycling (CIR) for Bituminous Over Concrete (BOC)
Geogrid Specification for Aggregate Base Reinforcement
Balanced Design of Asphalt Mixtures
Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) Design Manual for State Geotechnical Engineers
Policy and Planning
One-year Pilot Test and Evaluation of ASTM DOT Package Compass Portal
Traffic and Safety
Improve Traffic Volume Estimates from Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC)
Understanding Pedestrian Travel Behavior and Safety in Rural Settings
Minnesota’s next round of research implementation projects will reduce the spread of noxious weeds along state highways, improve the quality of asphalt on Minnesota roads and enhance the inspection of state bridges.
Each winter, MnDOT solicits proposals from staff who want to put local or national research into practice in their day-to-day work.
“Certain departments have problems they’ve been working on for a long time and they’ve spun their wheels or not had the staff resources to get something done,” said MnDOT Research Services & Library Project Advisor Bruce Holdhusen, who helps employees develop their proposal plans.
MnDOT provides the funding needed for equipment, consultant services or researcher assistance. Supervisors also must sign off that they’ll make time for the staff member to implement the practice.
“Implementation means it’s changing the way some practitioner does their job,” Holdhusen said. “It’s not just trying something new; it’s got to stick.”
Highlights of this year’s projects:
Installation of GPS units on MnDOT mowers to alert highway maintenance crews to areas of noxious weeds. This is anticipated to cut herbicide usage in half.
Purchase of 3D sonar equipment for underwater bridge inspection, which is currently performed by engineer-divers.
Selection of an alternative, European-branded center-line rumble strip (Sinusoidal) that produces less stray highway noise.
Implementation of an innovative asphalt-quality test, developed by MnDOT’s Office of Materials and Road Research, to assess the cold temperature-cracking properties of asphalt mixes proposed by contractors.
Advertisement of state rest area amenities on highway notification signs. This pilot project will target 13 rest stops.