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
MnDOT’s latest crop of transportation research projects have been identified. This year, researchers were asked to pay special attention to how their work could benefit the public and be put into real-world practice.
MnDOT’s Transportation Research Innovation Group (TRIG) and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board recently announced their Fiscal Year 2017 funding awards after hearing proposals from researchers at multiple universities. The two bodies chose 20 research proposals totaling about $2.9 million that will study new and innovative approaches to improving the environment, making transportation systems safer, improving construction methods and operating in more cost-effective ways.
According to MnDOT Research Management Engineer Hafiz Munir, MnDOT Research Services made some key changes to its annual requests for proposal that will help ensure research makes a difference to the agency’s bottom line. This year, researchers were asked early on in the proposal process how they would quantify their results, what benefits the research could achieve and how their research could be implemented in the future.
“Now we’ll be able to track those metrics and that will help MnDOT not only quantify the potential benefits of the projects, but also implement the results,” Munir said. “The bottom line is that we will be able to not only save money, but also improve the way MnDOT does business.”
Several of the 20 newly funded projects deal with improving transportation safety, Munir said, and many others are focused on implementing cost-saving practices, innovations and new technologies.
The projects approved in December 2015 will do the following:
Create an inexpensive GPS-based system that alerts the driver when a motor vehicle deviates from a lane or approaches a curve. (Project summary)
Find out whether a smartphone app can effectively warn drivers about upcoming roadway curves. (Project summary)
Determine whether different types of roadway turfgrass are better suited for specific regions of the state. (Project summary)
Create a comprehensive design guide for fish-friendly culverts. (Project summary)
Determine how social media can be used to engage diverse community groups within the state. (Project summary)
Investigate the performance of the state’s first glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) reinforced bridge deck, slated for construction in 2016. (Project summary)
Develop signage recommendations to slow high-speed traffic as it approaches roundabouts. (Project summary)
Gather truck reliability data, identifying truck bottlenecks and providing potential mitigation solutions for regular congestion areas. (Project summary)
Determine why anchor bolts are becoming loose on overhead signs, light towers and other support structures — and how to prevent it. (Project summary)
Establish a system and smartphone app for accurately capturing and reporting data about intrusions into work zones. (Project summary)
Develop an advanced sensor system to estimate long-term and dynamic vertical displacements on the I-35W bridge. (Project summary)
Investigate the necessity of pavement markings on low-volume roads and develop an approach to prioritize pavement marking projects. (Project summary)
Compare the performance of different structural fibers in thin concrete overlays. (Project summary)
Evaluate four performance test methods that predict the cracking behavior of asphalt mixes. (Project summary)
Investigate the link between transportation investment and job creation, and analyze transportation investments, business patterns and socioeconomic data in Minnesota counties. (Project summary)
Refine a taconite-based pothole repair compound, and develop a low-cost mechanized system to mix and place it in large quantities.(Project summary)
Investigate how much road salting can be safely decreased with the use of permeable pavements. (Project summary)
Evaluate the use of iron-enhanced check dams for capturing phosphate and toxic materials from roadway runoff. (Project summary)
Improve accessibility calculation capabilities and understanding of travel behavior by integrating data about highway bus operations, park-and-ride facilities, and urban parking costs. (Project summary)
Investigate the concept of estimating traffic volumes from mobile device samples to collect traffic data inexpensively. (Project summary)
Munir said the next steps for these projects this spring include creating technical advisory panels, finalizing project work plans and preparing contracts. Some projects could begin early, depending on available funding and project-readiness. By the time Fiscal Year 2017 begins on July 1, funding will be available to begin all 20 projects.
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.