Active Projects

Development of a Roadway Landslide Inventory and Analytical Tool for Southwestern Pennsylvania

Project Objectives:

Development of a Roadway Landslide Inventory and Analytical Tool for Southwestern PennsylvaniaLandslides are a major disruption to road networks and infrastructure in Southwestern Pennsylvania due to geological conditions, changes in the distribution of precipitation, and anthropogenic modifications to the landscape. Given the scale of this disruption, transportation agencies and local governments have invested significant resources in landslide repair. However, this problem cannot b e examined comprehensively as information about landslides is spread across multiple government and non-government agencies and organizations. A unified inventory of landslide data that incorporates extensive geophysical information will enable interested party access to a comprehensive and consistent set of information that can guide mitigation efforts based on the cumulative experience across the region. It will also help identify the most important causes for slope failure and/or locations that are most likely to fail, and advance an effective proactive approach to landslide monitoring and mitigation.

This project aims to: (1) Design a structure for a unified inventory of landslides that addresses the needs of stakeholders; (2) Initiate a data collection effort focused on historical landslide observations to establish a working database and document workflows that enable the collection, sharing, and analysis of new data across agencies; 3) Demonstrate the power of comprehensive data through evaluation of collected data.

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Investigating New Underground Utility Location Technologies and Novel Methods to Improve the Safety and Efficiency of Highway Construction

Project Objectives:

Investigating New Underground Utility Location TechnologiesDesign and construction of highway projects often face the challenge of determining the precise location and types of hazards or conflicts that may exist due to the presence of underground utilities. Traditional analog systems are effective and reliable for locating subsurface utilities at shallow depth but are less reliable for locating deeper utilities. Recent innovations offer an opportunity to improve the accuracy of identifying the type and location of underground utilities. However, there is a lack of guidelines for equipment selection and testing protocols that should be used prior to and, potentially, during the excavation. This results in inaccurate or incomplete information on unknown or abandoned utilities. This inaccurate/incomplete information also impacts construction schedules when these unknown locations or types of utilities are encountered. Current and emerging technologies that could more accurately determine lateral position and depth of known and unknown utilities to improve safety and optimize schedules for highway construction will be investigated. Requirements for the equipment and test protocols for data collection and data analysis will be developed. 

The project will evaluate and rank the scenarios that create challenges. A technology scan of current DOT methods and technologies used across the US as well as new and emerging technologies will be conducted and promising technologies identified. A field-testing program will be developed to compare the results of these methods to know utilities’ locations. Recommendations for the selection of equipment and the test protocols will be developed.

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Integrating Additive Manufacturing and Accelerated Bridge Construction Techniques

Project Objectives:

Accelerated Bridge Construction TechniquesModular forms of bridge construction are of continuing interest. The needs of accelerated bridge construction (ABC) are resulting in improved modularity. There are several innovative planning, materials, and construction techniques that are being incorporated into ABC projects, including prefabricated bridge elements and systems (PBES). PBES are structural components that are built offsite, or adjacent to the alignment. The components are then transported and fitted together at the bridge site. Prefabrication enables reduced construction time and improved component quality.

There is a need for new technologies that can increase the construction quality of PBES, substantially reduce their construction time and labor cost, enhance their safety and reliability, minimize the environmental footprint of the PBES fabrication plants, produce structural elements with optimized topologies and enable in-situ repair of existing ABC elements via customizable design. Additive manufacturing techniques (3D printing) can be regarded as a viable solution to address these issues.

The primary purpose of this study is to explore the feasibility of integrating additive manufacturing with ABC techniques in Pennsylvania. In particular, this study would focus on identifying, fabricating and mechanical testing of a range of 3D printable prefabricated bridge elements currently used in ABC projects.

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Joint Design Optimization

Project Objectives:

Joint Design OptimizationJoint performance is dependent on the interaction between the individual elements of the pavement structure, such as load transfer, drainage, joint reservoir/sealant design, etc. Yet, traditionally, most of these individual elements are designed without regard to these interactions. For example, the selection of the joint sealant type and the design of the sealant reservoir must consider the pavement structure (base type, load transfer, slab length, dimensional stability of the concrete, etc.), the anticipated level of traffic and the expected opportunities for maintenance. Current sealant types, reservoir designs and construction practices will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of these practices and identify opportunities for improvement.

Joint performance is also dependent on the ability of the dowel bars to function properly. For this reason, corrosion-resistant dowel bars are being used more commonly. Current design procedures do not account for the additional life achieved by using these long-life dowel bars. Corrosion models and dowel corrosion performance data will be identified and evaluated to determine which of these can be incorporated into models currently available for predicting faulting.

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Material Compatible Repairs Evaluation

Project Objectives:

Material Compatible Repairs EvaluationPartial-depth repair of concrete pavements and bridge decks is a rehabilitation technique that restores localized surface distresses in the upper one-third to one-half of a concrete slab depth. With proper design and construction, partial-depth repair should last as long as the surrounding concrete pavement making it a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to more costly and invasive rehabilitation options. Past studies have identified two major reasons for premature failures of partial depth repairs: (a) inability to achieve and keep adequate bond between the repair and the existing pavement due to improper repair material selection; and (b) incorrect repair dimensions.

To address the incompatibility issues between in-situ concrete and repair material, a previous research project entitled “Material Compatible Repairs (MCR) for Concrete Pavements and Bridge Decks” was conducted as part of IRISE’s first year program. Based on laboratory studies, the research shed light on the importance of using MCRs and best practices to develop a performance engineered repair material (PERM) to be used for the MCR. In this project, extensive and comparative testing is needed to validate and demonstrate the results of this previous research in the field. Concurrently, for the same repairs, investigate the ability of ultrasonic tomography testing to provide reliable information for required partial depth repair dimensions and evaluate bond condition after repair placement.

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Three-Dimensional Micro-Mechanical Characterization of the Effect of Vibration and Compaction in Concrete Pavements

Project Objectives:

The definition of the correct paving process to be used in different projects and conditions is a complex task that is severely influenced by environmental conditions (e.g., temperature and humidity), the type of concrete mix and layout of reinforcement and the manipulations performed during construction (i.e., vibration and compaction). The construction operations are generally performed based on established practices that do not take into account the specific conditions of the pavement. To this extent, advances in the description of the effects of vibration and compaction procedures could lead to the definition of practical rules to perform optimized paving in different conditions. The effect of each of the influencing factors needs to be accurately defined, in order to provide comprehensive guidelines and operational control for the optimization of the paving process in variable conditions and environments.

In this project experimental tools to enable optimized design and construction of concrete pavements will be built; the effect of vibration and compaction in paving processes under different environmental conditions will be investigated; computational tools to perform accurate parameterization of the solution space will be built to identify best practices and optimal results; and guidelines to provide more efficient construction of new pavements will be created.

Vibration and Compaction in Concrete Pavements

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Landslide Best Practices

Project Objectives:

A best practices compilation document for Landslides will be prepared. It will:

  1. Identify class/types of landslides impacting southwestern PA infrastructures (this has already been accomplished for the most part);
  2. Identify corrective actions taken for each landslide class/type; and
  3. Identify challenges in design procedures and permitting processes, which will include recommended revisions to design specifications.

MtThe project will produce a region-specific guidance document applicable to Southwestern Pennsylvania including Greene, Washington, Fayette, Indiana, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, along with the river valleys particularly along the Monongahela River basin. The target audience is practicing geotechnical engineers and geologists who are engaged in mitigating adverse impacts from an active landslide or reducing risk of landslide movement for infrastructure.

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Preliminary Evaluation of Pavement Surface Distresses Related to Pavement Markings.

Project Objectives:

Marking-Pavement-DistressRoad marking research has been traditionally focused on the life-cycle performance of various marking materials in terms of durability and visibility.  However, transportation agencies have reported the presence of pavement distresses such as cracking and raveling under or along pavement markings. It causes concerns that trapping of excess moisture under the marking and the difference in temperature from the marking to the pavement surface initiates and/or facilitates pavement distresses in the vicinity of marking. This project will investigate whether pavement markings are causing pavement surface deterioration and, if so, will develop approaches for mitigation of the problem. 

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Remote-Controlled Technology Assessment for Safer Pavement Construction and QA/QC.

Project Objectives:

Remote-Control-Pavement-DevicePavement quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) and other field testing and evaluation processes often require active workers’ presence at the construction site thus increasing the potential for accidents due to traffic interaction. As work safety is one of the most important aspects of pavement construction and evaluation, there is a high demand for remote-controlled techniques and processes that would keep pavement workers away from direct harm while also assuring highly effective QA/QC and testing operations.  This project will identify and review new and emerging remote-controlled processes with focus on pavement QA/QC, testing and evaluation recently developed in the U.S. and abroad that are potentially implementable.  The project will provide information on the latest developments and facilitate implementation of the emerging pavement technologies in order to develop safer and more effective pavement construction and evaluation methodologies.

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Developing Methodologies to Predict and Quantify the Benefits of IRISE Research.

Project Objectives:

Methodologies will be developed and applied to research results developed by IRISE for several highway infrastructure projects to predict and quantify benefits.  Tasks will be performed to evaluate current methodologies used to predict changes in highway infrastructure relative to longevity and resulting cost reductions. These existing methodologies and novel methods will be developed and applied based upon successful and meaningful results from the IRISE projects being funded. The methodologies will be applied by quantifying and extrapolating data available from the IRISE partners and other publicly available information on a national or state scale for highway infrastructure and user costs. 

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Improving Bridge Assessment through the Integration of Conventional Visual Inspection, Non-Destructive Evaluation, and Structural Health Monitoring Data.

Project Objectives:

Recently, there have been numerous investigations on merging the fast-growing cyber-physical structural health monitoring (SHM) technologies as well as non-destructive evaluation (NDE) techniques into infrastructure monitoring. Despite the obvious advantages of all these techniques, there is a huge gap in the establishment of effective approaches to fuse the data acquired from all of these paradigms to make informed decisions related to assessment, management, preservation, and renewal.

The primary purpose of this study is to establish a framework capable of leveraging emerging Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) and Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) techniques to provide improved performance assessment of bridges. In particular, the proposed framework would focus on addressing the principal challenges associated with studying the service life of bridge structures, which are related to (a) the long-time scales (which requires accelerated aging), and (b) the diverse outputs related to bridge condition (in terms of data collected through SHM, NDE, and visual inspection). The primary focus would be on identifying the synergies among bridge degradation, remaining service life, and the results taken from the multimodal sensing technologies (such as SHM and NDE). 

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Early Opening of Concrete Pavements to Traffic.

Project Objectives:

Current empirical methods for determining traffic-opening criteria can be overly conservative causing unnecessary construction delays and user costs.  These criteria require wait periods after concrete placement or achievement of certain levels of compressive and/or flexural strength of concrete.

The proposed research will develop innovative mechanistic-based procedures for quantifying the risk of premature failure and long-term damage caused by traffic opening at various concrete strength levels.  A methodology for the accurate monitoring of in-situ concrete early age development will be proposed.  The objective of the research is to develop a strategy that can be implemented by IRISE members for the optimal timing of the opening of new concrete pavements to traffic.

The scope of the project includes literature review, lab and field testing, development of a mechanistic-empirical model for prediction of concrete pavement damage due to early opening, and recommendations for early opening data analysis.  It will utilize recent developments in nondestructive testing of concrete.  

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