ATHENS, Ohio (May 18, 2006) -- Frequent travelers along the expressways and highways in Ohio are all too familiar with one thing: barrels. But despite their bright color, they aren't barrels of fun – they are construction barrels. Upon spotting one of these barrels, which can be done from a mile away, motorists know to expect trouble. The orange cylinders line up single file as if they are formally inviting drivers to lane closures, detours or some other construction obstruction.
However, the number of barrels - and hopefully the number of highway headaches - will soon be reduced as a result of research by the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (ORITE), part of the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University.
ORITE recently received a "pooled fund study" award of $1.3 million from several state departments of transportation (DOTs) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to investigate procedures for designing and constructing long-lived pavements - that is, pavements that can handle more traffic over a longer period of time with less maintenance.
A pooled fund study asks researchers to explore a topic of national interest. In this case, ORITE researchers will study pavements in Ohio and New York, making study results relevant to design and construction in several regions.
Before long, the FHWA plans to encourage state DOTs to implement new national guidelines for designing and analyzing asphalt concrete and Portland cement concrete pavement structures. "State DOTs need to calibrate these guidelines to conditions in their regions, to make predictions of response and performance more accurate," said ORITE Associate Director Shad Sargand, who is leading the study with J. Ludwig Figueroa, professor of civil engineering.
This study also aims to improve construction processes. "Better construction processes reduce construction delays and enable a road to reach its full design life," Sargand said. "Our goal is to improve state specifications for design and construction - and not just Ohio's."
ORITE researchers have been collecting relevant data on U.S. Route 23 in Delaware county for 12 years already. Data collection will continue at U.S. Route 30, a test road near Wooster, Ohio, that features asphalt perpetual pavement and long-lived concrete pavement. The study will also gather information from various other pavements in Athens, Delaware, Meigs, Logan and Stark counties.
Researchers will monitor a range of environmental factors and the number and weight of vehicles using the roads. Periodically, researchers will perform detailed inspections of the pavements and will do forensic studies of some failed sections, to try to identify why they failed, rather like the autopsy a medical examiner performs to determine the cause of death.
To test various climate regions, similar studies will take place in Olean and Rochester, New York, where roads are subject to more freezing, thawing and road salt.
"We are examining a good range of environments that will affect these pavements. It will be applicable to many parts of the country," Figueroa said.
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