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ODOT, Ohio University break ground on unique test road in Vinton Co.

Summer rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of dozens of Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) personnel; Ohio University faculty, researchers, and students; and state and county representatives who gathered on US 50 to break ground on Ohio’s first low-volume, two-lane test road on Thursday.

The project is a joint effort of ODOT and Ohio University’s Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (ORITE), whose researchers will use the 1.44-mile stretch of US 50 to test ways to preserve pavement.

ODOT Deputy Director of Engineering David Slatzer highlighted how data from the test road’s first phase – five miles of roadway adjacent to the new section – is already directly supporting ODOT’s goal of efficient and sustainable road maintenance.

“Our mission statement is all about taking care of what we have, and certainly some of the things that we’re going to learn on phase one are going to assist us in taking care of what we have,” Slatzer said.

Dean Ringle, executive director of the County Engineers Association of Ohio, is hopeful the project will provide county engineers with more detailed information on what kind of pavements work best for less-traveled roads.

“One of the things we really need from a county’s perspective, for low-volume roads – which are 75 to 80 percent of the roads in Ohio – are good options, depending on not just the amount of traffic, but the rate of traffic and the cost of materials,” Ringle said.

ORITE Associate Director Shad Sargand said meetings and discussions with county engineers, local agencies, and ODOT personnel indicated there was a need for the test road, called the Southern Ohio Low Volume Experimental Road (SOLVER). The ORITE team’s findings will help ODOT in its move to a preventative maintenance strategy to use taxpayer money more efficiently, he continued.

“I emphasize that we could test a lot of these things in the lab, but there is no substitute. We could run thousands of experiments, but this is so controlled,” Sargand said. “I think this test road will be very successful because of the very good support from ODOT and the contractor, Shelly & Sands.”

Darla Miller, interim director of ODOT District 10, underscored the value of the project’s collaborative planning process.

“This joint effort between Ohio University and ODOT has truly been a prime example of collaboration,” Miller said. “Not only do we have ODOT and OHIO’s research institute, but we’ve also had plenty of meetings and discussions with village and township officials, with county engineers, and with all of the local agencies and officials in the area.”