Lefty Engineer

Lefty Engineers

In our work with engineers we’ve discovered many are left handed, maybe a disproportionately large number. Engineers are tenacious problem solvers. They are also pretty creative. Research tells us these abilities are common among most southpaws.

While maybe 10 or 12 percent of the population are left-handed, why are so many lefties earning their daily bread as engineers? A recent study at Saint Lawrence University revealed that lefties with high IQs outnumber their right-handed counterparts. Lefties think quicker, work well on teams, multitask, and are capable of dealing with large, unorganized streams of information. Engineers need these capabilities.

Australian National University research found that lefties react faster to stimulus, and are skilled at spotting details in patterns. Lefties are also more capable of dealing with sensory overload. So, perhaps many left-handed folks are destined to be engineers.

Engineers know how to explain their work to those in their field as well as others from all walks of life. Engineers often collaborate, as their work is usually a component of a complex project.

Successful engineers respect deadlines. Engineers have the flexibility to handle unexpected challenges, including obstacles that come out of left field. Southpaws are good at anticipating delays and other events that can throw a schedule off track. Their thoughts travel in the left lane—it’s the fast one.

Reach Thousands More People without Spending Thousands More Dollars

How We Told People We Were Closing a Bridge Using Programmatic/RTB

Recently, Seventh Point helped develop a public awareness campaign for a year-long bridge closure. Community outreach was done, including community engagement, press releases, and digital and print ads in the newspaper. But media is changing. We needed to make sure we reached the people who used the bridge often or drove through the area, even if they didn’t read the paper or attend public hearings.

Mobile Message: Phones, Tablets, and Computers

Maximizing the budget was a priority. Print ads and TV spots are effective, but expensive, with a lot of wasted impressions.  Anyone not watching that channel or reading that publication misses the announcement. We needed to spend less and get more. Where do people get their news now? On their phone, tablets, or computers. Checking social media, shopping, searching. Our full-service agency is the first in Virginia to operate an in-house agency trade desk using programmatic buying/real-time bidding (RTB), targeting the exact person we want to reach, almost anywhere they go online. We decided to use a digital RTB campaign – we would geo-target people and push the message out to only those people who lived close to the bridge or drove through the area.

Reach People Who Care About Your Message

Ever been served an ad that seemed strangely customized to you? For example, those red sneakers you were looking for pop up again when you’re researching recipes a day later. That type of re-targeting is part of Programmatic buying and RTB. If each person is “driving” through different sites online, we can follow the data “exhaust” of that driver, the story of each person online, and we can track the right person. To reach relevant people who lived close to the bridge, we geo-targeted a radius of the population of the affected town within 30 miles of the bridge closure. Specific audience targeting meant people in the town received ads for the closure, on 98% of the Internet. From social media to news sites, gaming, shopping, even cat videos, we make sure the right people see our client’s message. Once a person left our radius bubble, they stopped getting ads.

Measure How and Where You Reach People

In real time, our data platform shows us how many people see and click on the bridge closing ad. At the end of the day, we knew exactly how much it cost to tell someone we were closing a bridge. During the first week of the public outreach, for $0.97 per ad click, we reached over 645,000 people – for a price that made our client happy. Not only was that better than expected, it beat the pants off the average $5 – $8 typical cost per click (CPC). Real reporting on impressions made a big impression on the client. After the project, they started requiring programmatic ad spends in other public outreach efforts. We reached the right group of people with a message that hit home.

Identify Key Stakeholders and Reach Thousands of Motorists

Most transportation projects will affect more than just the traveling public. Because it is important to reach out to anyone who may experience impact, a thorough and accurate key stakeholders list is essential. In addition to motorists, key stakeholders may include municipalities, city officials, businesses, first responders, the military, civic leagues/neighborhood groups and area residents, to name a few.

Each of these groups has a designated Public Information Officer (PIO) or communications manager. The easiest and most cost-effective way of communicating with them is through routine email and project updates.

After identifying key stakeholders, include them on project updates and request that they forward the information to their networks, departments and employees. For example, one email to a city PIO or major employer communications manager within the project vicinity will allow you to reach thousands of motorists.

You can reinforce communications by making a phone call to each PIO or communications manager. Introduce yourself in relationship to the project and let them know you have identified them as key stakeholders. Let each PIO or communications manager know you want to keep them informed for their benefit, to confirm they are receiving project updates and to confirm that the updates are useful.

In conjunction with building the stakeholder list, a project website is crucial to keeping the public informed. All project updates must drive individuals to this website.

A more direct and personal approach is often required for high-impact transportation construction projects. This may include making public appearances at community events, giving presentations to civic leagues and rotary clubs or hosting “lunch-and-learn” events with impacted businesses. This gives the public a face-to-face opportunity to ask questions, receive project information and have their voices heard regarding the project’s impact, as well asinsight on how to mitigate it. This face-to-face interaction will foster support and increase understanding for the full scope and benefits of the project.

An accurate key stakeholder list is essential to the success of your project. Don’t let a community be surprised by highway construction and inconvenience. Engage them and allow them to prepare. This will help manage the impact and promote the project benefits.

Pushing the Limits of Pavement

With more than 2.6 million miles of paved roadway in the United States, pavement is one of the most essential elements in the surface transportation system. However, the public may not realize that pavements are engineered structures constructed with deliberate choices in layer thicknesses and materials. At the same time, pavement materials are natural resources with an inherent variability. Road owners must balance that natural variability with the desired engineering properties and economic considerations during production and construction all the way through to maintenance and preservation. Pavement tests are one tool transportation agencies rely on to make informed decisions about investments and new pavement technologies.

Pavement testing helps agencies understand how combinations of raw materials and techniques for combining them will affect performance under varying conditions, such as traffic loads and environmental factors. The goal is to uncover potential benefits–for example, lower cost but equivalent performance–from introducing alternative materials, designs, or paving processes into highway infrastructure.

Pavement researchers use several levels of testing from small-scale, short-term laboratory and computer modeling experiments to long-term, real-world tests. In between is full-scale accelerated pavement testing, which represents a vital link between laboratory evaluations and the real-life performance of a pavement installed on an inservice road.

“The most accurate information on real-world pavement performance is obtained by building test sections on the public right-of-way and studying performance under real traffic and environmental conditions for many years, as we do in our Long-Term Pavement Performance program,” says Cheryl Allen Richter, assistant director for Pavements Research and Development with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). “With new pavement technologies, we can’t always afford to wait that long for answers. One solution is to use accelerated loading technologies to approximate many years’ worth of traffic loads within a condensed time period.”

Full-scale accelerated pavement tests assess the performance of materials and techniques that simulate the distresses observed throughout an entire life cycle but in a significantly shorter period, typically a few months to several years. The Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 433: Significant Findings from Full-Scale Accelerated Pavement Testing defines this type of analysis as the “application of full-scale wheel loads to layered, structural pavement systems to determine pavement response and performance under controlled, accelerated accumulation of damage loading in a compressed time period. This is done while environmental effects on the pavement are typically controlled and measured.” Testing facilities, typically located at Federal, State, and university research centers, use a variety of devices and instrumentation to apply full-scale wheel loads and measure the pavement response.

Benefits include cost savings and increased safety compared to working on roadways open to traffic. Also, results tend to carry a higher level of significance and confidence compared to smaller scale laboratory tests. Full-scale testing circumvents having to wait for results to accumulate at a slower rate under actual traffic and avoids the risks of potential costs and dangers due to failures under actual traffic loading. Further, accelerated testing enables researchers to control for major experimental, traffic, and environmental variables and helps them apply the results to other conditions.

FHWA’s Office of Infrastructure Research and Development (R&D) conducts full-scale accelerated pavement testing at its Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) in McLean, VA. Currently, 13 other facilities across the country also conduct similar types of experiments. The geographic spread of these facilities accounts for local variations in climate, traffic, and the natural materials that go into pavements, such as locally available aggregates. Here is a look at the history of pavement testing and the latest research underway at some of these facilities.

Research in the United States
The study of pavement performance under controlled conditions has a long history in the United States. In 1954 the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), predecessor to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), launched a seminal road test that ran until 1960. The AASHO Road Test studied the performance of both flexible asphalt pavements and rigid concrete pavements and bridges on six different test tracks with 126 vehicles in the test fleet. The road test laid the foundation for most of today’s pavement engineering and design models.

Historically, much of the country’s nationally coordinated pavement research has focused on long-term pavement performance. FHWA’s Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) program, for example, collects data on more than 2,500 pavement sections under real traffic loadings and in different climatic and subgrade conditions. In fact, the NCHRP used nationwide data from the LTPP program, as well as data from Minnesota’s MnROAD pavement test facility, to calibrate portions of the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide (now AASHTOWare® Pavement ME Design).

FHWA’s Aramís López, team leader for the LTPP program, says accelerated pavement testing complements these LTPP field performance studies. “Each type of study stands on its own,” he says. “The results of each reinforce the findings of the other to build a more holistic picture of the performance of pavement assets.”

Today, full-scale accelerated testing programs are expanding in the United States and internationally as pavement owners feel the pressure to do more with less. The increased interest has led to three broad cooperative activities: in the United States, the creation of the TRB technical committee on Full-Scale and Accelerated Pavement Testing (AFD40) and the Transportation Pooled Fund Consortium of Accelerated Pavement Testing (TPF-5(127)), and in Europe, the establishment of the COST (Cooperation in Science and Technology) Pavement Research with Accelerated Loading Testing Facilities program.

These groups bring researchers together to further the use, development, and exchange of information on accelerated pavement testing and to generate findings that can be applied to the broader field of pavement engineering. For example, the TRB committee sponsors an international conference every 4 years that brings the research community together to share and discuss their experiments.

Accelerated Pavement Testing at FHWA
In 1986, FHWA established the Pavement Test Facility at TFHRC to provide researchers with the capability to simulate an entire life cycle of accumulated damage on full-scale pavement structures in just a few months.

The test facility is a 0.5-acre (0.2-hectare) outdoor laboratory featuring two Accelerated Loading Facility (ALF) units. The ALF units are linear machines with a trolley that simulates one half of a single truck axle that can be fitted with various tire configurations (single or dual). Researchers can adjust the wheel load levels from 10,000 pounds (4.5 metric tons) to 23,000 pounds (10.4 metric tons) simulating legal to heavily overloaded truck traffic. The loaded wheel travels over pavement test sections in one direction at 11 miles per hour (18 kilometers per hour) and simulates the random left-to-right wheel “wander” that naturally occurs in vehicles’ wheelpaths. The machines can make approximately 50,000 passes per week.

Each pavement test segment is approximately 46 feet (14 meters) long and 13 feet (4 meters) wide, allowing for the study of rutting (permanent deformations) and load-associated cracking. The testing space can accommodate 12 separate full-scale pavement test lanes, and each lane provides 4 test sites for a total of 48 potential study segments. Radiant heaters control high pavement temperatures year-round for rutting studies and also provide intermediate temperature control for fatigue cracking during cooler weather. Other onsite equipment includes laser surface profilers; digital crack map readers; falling weight deflectometers; surface wave spectral analyzers; and data acquisition systems for embedded electronic gauges for measurements of strain, deflection, and stress response.

The Pavement Test Facility has a history of accomplishments. The first few studies after its establishment identified that axle load equivalency factors for heavy loads and thinner pavement structures could be higher (more damaging) than earlier studies had determined. The studies also identified the influence of tire type and inflation pressure on performance, but found axle load levels have a far greater impact.

Shortly thereafter, FHWA evaluated a single tire alternative to the standard configuration of dual truck tires known as super-singles for potential effects on pavement damage. The study quantified that trucks outfitted with super-single tires could cause significantly more fatigue cracking and nominally more rutting. An ongoing pooled fund study at the accelerated pavement testing facility in Illinois is currently evaluating the second generation of these single tires known as wide-base super-singles.

In 1993, the facility acquired a second ALF unit for a large study to validate the performance-graded specifications for Superpave (SUperior PERforming Asphalt PAVEments) asphalt binder developed under the Strategic Highway Research Program. FHWA researchers conducted experiments on rutting and fatigue cracking with different asphalt binders and found that the rutting specification for performance-graded binder indicated the correct performance trends for unmodified asphalt. Results showed that the performance-graded asphalt binder fatigue specification was most applicable to thinner asphalt pavements.

The distressed asphalt pavements from this experiment then were rehabilitated with thin overlays of portland cement concrete, also known as ultrathin whitetopping. Researchers studied eight sections with various combinations of thickness, joint spacing, and plain or fiber-reinforced concrete mixtures. Results from measurement of slab cracking under the ALF loading were shared with researchers with FHWA’s Concrete Pavement Technology Program and with the Innovative Pavement Research Foundation for the development of design software for whitetopping overlay applications.

More recently, the facility revisited asphalt binder performance-graded specifications for Superpave to address discrepancies regarding the unsatisfactory ability to capture the performance contributions of polymer-modified asphalt binders. The results identified several candidate tests for rutting and fatigue cracking specifications for asphalt binders that adequately capture the performance of both unmodified and polymer-modified asphalts. One of the tests is now an AASHTO test method (T 350: Standard Method of Test for Multiple Stress Creep Recovery Test of Asphalt Binder Using a Dynamic Shear Rheometer).

The FHWA Pavement Test Facility also contributes data, materials, and resources to support a number of other projects including key, national NCHRP projects. For example, laboratory data and samples of pavement materials provided benchmarks for performance test methods and equipment such as the Asphalt Mixture Performance Tester, a technician-friendly tool for the pavement community that provides engineering properties of asphalt pavement materials for AASHTOWare®Pavement ME Design.

Today, FHWA’s accelerated pavement testing program is focused on sustainability. In October 2013, the facility completed a reconstruction of the test sections to study the combination of two sustainable technologies: (1) increased use of recycled materials in highways and (2) reduced-temperature warm-mix asphalt. The full-scale test sections were constructed with varying degrees of recycled content using alternative production technologies that are more environmentally friendly than previous techniques. FHWA will test the sections to failure through 2015 to establish realistic boundaries for mixtures with high amounts of recycled content that employ warm-mix asphalt production technologies. The research will identify optimal pairings of the two technologies, while ensuring that they have limited or no impact on performance compared to conventional pavement materials.

In addition to FHWA’s efforts, full-scale testing facilities across the country are making significant contributions to enhance pavement performance. Among them are facilities in California, Indiana, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Alabama, and New Jersey.

California Pavement Research Center
In 1994, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)/University of California acquired two heavy vehicle simulators and ushered its understanding of accelerated pavement testing into the modern era. Since 1995, the University of California Pavement Research Center has operated the two machines in 21 different project investigations, testing more than 150 instrumented sections, with 80 million load repetitions applied–equal to more than 4.2 billion equivalent single-axle loads.

These project investigations have looked at a variety of factors including evaluation of long-life rehabilitation strategies for rigid pavements, performance of drained and undrained flexible pavements, and rehabilitation of precast concrete panels for long-life highways. Other studies focused on dowel bar retrofits for rigid pavements, the use of warm-mix asphalt technologies in conventional and rubberized asphalt, and rutting and clogging performance of new open-graded asphalt concrete mixes with smaller maximum sizes to improve durability and noise performance. Another study reviewed a new joint design for the deck of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Still other investigations have verified rehabilitation designs for long-life flexible pavements for the I–710 freeway and overlay thicknesses for Caltrans’ rubberized asphalt overlay designs.

Results from California’s experiments are analyzed in combination with laboratory and field testing results to answer specific questions for Caltrans and other clients. All results are saved into relational databases. To answer complex questions, such as calibration of mechanistic-empirical design procedures, researchers bring together the results of multiple projects to provide a much larger data set.

“Over the years, the [University of California] Pavement Research Center has made significant contributions to the field of accelerated pavement testing,” says Coco Briseno, chief of the Caltrans Division of Research, Innovation and System Information. “This collaborative partnership has allowed us to stay on top of new technologies, which improve our choices in pavement design while incorporating sustainability and environmental stewardship into our end product.”

Indiana Accelerated Pavement Testing Facility
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), in association with Purdue University, operates an accelerated pavement testing facility in West Lafayette, IN. The facility is housed in a 2,000-square-foot (186-square-meter), environmentally controlled building outfitted with a test pit, loading mechanism, and control and monitoring equipment. The indoor facility allows for more precise control of temperature and other factors.


The equipment can apply loads with a dual wheel or a super-single half-axle assembly traveling over the test pavement at 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour and may be operated unidirectionally or bidirectionally. A loading mechanism applies and maintains a constant force up to 20,000 pounds (9 metric tons) on the wheel assembly. With modifications, researchers can increase this half-axle loading to 40,000 pounds (18 metric tons), applied statically or as a programmed dynamic load function.

Since it was established 12 years ago, INDOT’s testing program has investigated flexible and rigid pavements. Experiments have included gradation of hot-mix asphalt mixtures, validation of Superpave mix designs, damage due to various types of tires, structural evaluations, hot-mix asphalt mixes with low air voids, ultrathin whitetopping, and early strength gain requirements of concrete.

“The results of these studies benefit INDOT in terms of new and better policies, procedures, construction practices, and specifications to achieve more durable, longer lasting pavement,” says Mark Miller, chief engineer at INDOT. “For example, we’ve continually improved the hot-mix asphalt pavement specification…since the adoption of Superpave mix designs to minimize pavement rutting and thermal cracking, as well as pavement fatigue cracks.”

INDOT’s Barry Partridge, director of research and development, adds, “Accelerated findings in a low-risk, controlled setting [are] achievable [at] the Indiana Accelerated Pavement Testing Facility. This allows for early adoption and implementation of viable research results and new products.”

Florida Facility
In 2000, the need for faster and more practical evaluation methods under closely simulated inservice conditions prompted the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to initiate an accelerated pavement testing program conducted through partnerships with the local university system, industry, and FHWA. Located in Gainesville, FL, the testing facility originally consisted of eight linear test tracks, each 150 feet (46 meters) long and 12 feet (4 meters) wide, and two test pits, measuring 50 feet (15 meters) long and 12 feet (4 meters) or 18 feet (5 meters) wide. Both test pits have the capability to control the water table within the supporting base and subgrade layers. In 2011, FDOT extended seven of the test tracks by 300 feet (90 meters) each to better represent field paving practices and to accommodate additional test sections. A heavy vehicle simulator applies accelerated wheel loading to the test tracks.

The FDOT program selects projects on an annual basis and has investigated flexible, rigid, and composite pavements over the last decade. Project focuses have included gradation of hot-mix asphalt mixtures, the use of asphalt binders modified with polymer and ground tire rubber, damage due to various tire types, the effect of stress-absorbing membrane interlayers, aging of hot-mix asphalt, and early strength gain of concrete. In addition to research on pavement systems, FDOT has used its heavy vehicle simulator to investigate the performance of raised pavement markers and a fiber-reinforced polymer bridge deck.

“Most important is the impact the accelerated testing program has had on pavement construction and design practices,” says Bouzid Choubane, State pavement material systems engineer with FDOT. The research program led to the revision of FDOT’s Flexible Pavement Design Manual and construction specifications and has provided critical information to policymakers. Early examples of implemented accelerated pavement testing research include the adoption of polymer-modified asphalt binders and the development of criteria for their use, as well as allowing use of fine-graded Superpave asphalt mixtures. In addition, FDOT has allowed the use of wide-base tires and is currently funding the study of more effective treatments for mitigating reflection cracking based on research that showed FDOT’s current strategy is ineffective. FDOT estimates that the implementation and optimization of polymer-modified asphalt binders, and the use of fine-graded Superpave asphalt mixtures saves taxpayers more than $4 million each year.

University of Texas At Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington established its accelerated pavement testing program in 2012 at Fort Worth, TX. The main components of the facility are the experimental test area and a pavement testing machine.

The experimental test area is a 150-foot by 150-foot (46-meter by 46-meter) elevated area with 3 feet (0.9 meter) of imported subgrade soil placed on top of the existing silty clay soil. A total of 30 full-scale experimental pavement sections can be constructed on top of the subgrade soil with conventional pavement construction equipment. The pavement testing machine makes approximately 600 passes per hour in bidirectional loading mode and around 300 passes per hour in unidirectional loading mode. The maximum single-axle load it can apply is approximately 40,000 pounds (18 metric tons).

The program’s first research project, sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), is being conducted in collaboration with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The project aims to optimize the design of asphalt mixes that contain recycled asphalt pavement and recycled asphalt shingles. Researchers built 12 experimental pavement sections to evaluate the performance of 4 mixes for rutting, fatigue cracking, and reflection cracking. The mixes contain the maximum amount of recycled materials currently allowed by TxDOT specifications.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Illinois Center for Transportation’s Advanced Transportation Research and Engineering Laboratory is home to most of the pavement research ongoing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The laboratory is a state-of-the-art facility that has 67,000 square feet (6,225 square meters) of research space, a distance learning and continuing education classroom, offices, and an outdoor pavement testing facility.

The laboratory’s Accelerated Transportation Loading Assembly (ATLAS) is a full-scale testing apparatus that can examine pavement sections up to 85 feet (26 meters) each. ATLAS is capable of simulating aircraft and truck traffic load distributions, testing all types of pavement systems, and applying load levels exceeding highway and airfield loading limits. The system can accommodate a single tire, dual tires, aircraft tires, or a single-axle rail bogey. A recently installed climatic control system enables ATLAS to maintain constant pavement temperatures during testing year-round.

“ATLAS has been an effective testing device that allows us to validate developed theories and laboratory tests using full-scale constructed pavement sections in the lab backyard,” says Imad L. Al-Qadi, director of the Illinois Center for Transportation. “The ability to measure pavement responses to various controlled loadings provides better understanding of pavement layer and material behavior and performance.”

For the past 10 years, researchers have used ATLAS to test numerous full-scale pavement sections. These tests include projects to assess the performance of continuously reinforced concrete, full-depth perpetual pavements, geosynthetically reinforced pavements, whitetopping concrete overlays, composite pavements, interlayer and tack coat effectiveness, and low-volume roads.

For example, in one experiment, researchers constructed pavement test sections with two different moisture-sensitive asphalt mixtures using six additives to control moisture damage. The project outcomes provided crucial feedback to the Illinois Department of Transportation about the efficiency and importance of using additives or modifiers to control moisture damage. In another study, researchers constructed nine highly instrumented, low-volume road pavement sections with various layer thicknesses and reinforced by various types of geoysnthetic interlayers. The study resulted in the quantification of geosynthetic benefits in pavement performance and provided recommendations on the optimum location for its use.

Kansas State University/Kansas Department of Transportation
The Department of Civil Engineering at Kansas State University and the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) jointly developed the Civil Infrastructure Systems Laboratory, which opened in 1996. The laboratory houses an indoor accelerated pavement testing facility with approximately 5,000 square feet (465 square meters) of test area. A test frame with a 42-foot (13-meter) span has a single- or tandem-axle assembly rolling at a speed of 7 miles per hour (11 kilometers per hour) over pavement specimens up to 20 feet (6 meters) long. The frame has an enclosure that enables researchers to regulate the air and surface temperature during the test.

The testing facility has the capability to test hot-mix asphalt pavements for rutting or fatigue cracking, thermal effects, reinforced base effectiveness, drainable base effectiveness, freeze/thaw cycling, and pumping action in portland cement concrete pavements.

To date, the laboratory has conducted 18 experiments. Recent studies include testing of unpaved and paved roads with geocell and geosynthetic reinforcement and verification of mechanistic-empirical design models for flexible pavements. The latter project, conducted by the Midwest States Accelerated Testing Program under a pooled fund, aimed to verify the models in use in AASHTOWare® Pavement ME Design for the design of new flexible pavements. For this test, researchers constructed and evaluated 12 experimental pavement structures at the lab between 2006 and 2009.

“The accelerated testing program at the Civil Infrastructure Systems Laboratory…has been very valuable to the Kansas Department of Transportation [KDOT] in evaluating the impact of different pavement structures and mix characteristics on pavement performance,” says Greg Schieber, assistant bureau chief of materials with KDOT. “The research has directly influenced changes to KDOT pavement design policy that have resulted in improved pavement performance on Kansas roadways.”

Minnesota MnROAD Test Facility
The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s MnROAD Test Facility is a full-scale accelerated pavement test track owned and operated by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Located near Albertville, MN, MnROAD was constructed between 1991 and 1993. The track has two road segments with nearly fifty 500-foot (152-meter) test sections located next to I–94. One segment is a 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) mainline interstate roadway carrying live traffic averaging 29,000 vehicles a day. The second is a 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) closed-loop, low-volume roadway carrying a controlled, fully loaded (80,000 pounds, 36 metric tons) five-axle semitrailer to simulate conditions on rural roads.

The first phase of MnROAD research ended in 2006 and focused on the structural design of concrete, bituminous, and gravel pavement designs. Outcomes showed that past pavement designs were too conservative and environmental factors were not fully taken into account when selecting materials. The benefits included a reduction in thermal cracking around the State, scientific-based seasonal load policy, reductions in required surface thickness, and a reinforced importance of sealing pavement cracks and shoulder joints.

MnROAD is now in its second phase of research, which started in 2007. Some recent studies have included investigation of warm-mix asphalt, quiet diamond grinding, whitetopping overlay design, pervious pavements, stabilized full-depth reclamation, low-temperature cracking in asphalt pavements, and preventative measures for hot-mix asphalt pavements. One study tested the effects of husbandry on pavement performance. Researchers compared the stress and strain behavior of pavements under loading from large and heavy farm equipment compared to five-axle semitrailer loads on two test sections of MnROAD. Following the study, researchers recommended cost-effective solutions to minimize damage to pavements by working with farmers to haul materials in the mornings when the temperature is cooler and the asphalt roadway is less susceptible to loads, to provide seasonal one-way roadways to keep the equipment off the weaker shoulders, and to work with equipment manufacturers related to the size and weights of future equipment.

MnROAD’s third phase of research, slated for construction in 2016, will focus on maintenance and rehabilitation. To get involved with MnROAD and planning for future projects, visit

National Center for Asphalt Technology
The Pavement Test Track operated by the National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University is a full-scale, accelerated performance testing facility for flexible pavements. Located in eastern Alabama, the facility has forty-six 200-foot (61-meter) test sections installed around a 1.7-mile (2.7-kilometer) oval track. Researchers subject the test sections to accelerated damage via a fleet of tractors pulling heavy triple trailers. In addition, a local county road that provides one-way access to a quarry and an asphalt plant now serves as a testbed for research on pavement preservation.

The primary objectives of research on the Pavement Test Track are to study how thick pavements need to be built, to identify methods and materials that minimize construction costs and improve life-cycle performance for each layer in the structure, and to quantify the benefits of pavement preservation.

Some of the track’s past experiments involved increasing use of recycled and reclaimed materials in asphalt pavements, implementing warm-mix asphalt, and improving the constructability and durability of Superpave mixes. Other studies focused on quantifying the benefits of modified binders, recalibrating the layer coefficient for modern asphalt pavements to reduce empirical overdesigns, determining critical values for quality control testing, and validating laboratory methods to prevent top-down cracking. Current research includes testing pavement sections that were placed in summer 2012, with a focus on sustainable materials and methods, enhanced pavement interlayers, and pavement preservation.

FAA Facility in New Jersey
In addition to the aforementioned facilities studying highway pavements, another–the indoor Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Airport Pavement Test Facility–is focused on performance of airport pavements. Located in New Jersey, the facility opened in 1999 and is used to generate data on pavement response and performance for development and verification of design criteria for airport pavements.

The test facility consists of a 900-foot (274-meter)-long by 60-foot (18-meter)-wide test pavement area, with embedded pavement and environmental instrumentation and both static and dynamic data acquisition systems. The test vehicle is capable of loading the pavement sections with a maximum of 12 aircraft tires at wheel loads up to 75,000 pounds (34 metric tons) per tire.

Some of the facility’s major accomplishments include updated failure models for FAA’s design procedures for flexible, rigid, and overlay pavements and modifications to existing alpha factors (pavement thickness reduction factors) for landing gear configurations. Other research led to adoption of new tire pressure limits that will allow newer aircraft with higher tire pressures to operate at airports around the world and development of a design procedure for the thickness of hot-mix asphalt overlays over rubblized concrete pavements. In 2013, the National Airport Pavement Test Facility received the Robert Horonjeff Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers in recognition of its advancements to the field of air transportation engineering.

Future research will include full-scale testing of long-lasting hot-mix asphalt pavements, hot-mix asphalt overlays on concrete pavements to study reflective cracking, allowable aircraft overload criteria for flexible pavements, and sustainable technologies such as warm-mix asphalt and recycled asphalt products using FAA’s recently acquired heavy vehicle simulator.

Last Thoughts
“Use of accelerated testing continues to grow and become an integral part of pavement research operations, with benefits that include improved structural and material design methods, performance modeling, and evaluation of new materials and structures,” says Ben Worel, MnROAD operations engineer. “Through well-planned studies over the last two decades, full-scale accelerated pavement testing at FHWA and elsewhere around the country has provided important information to the pavement engineering community.”

NCHRP’s Synthesis 433 report summarized and documented significant findings from the various experimental activities associated with these programs between 2000 and 2011.

“The results of these studies have directly contributed to improvements in the sustainability, durability, and cost-effectiveness of pavements,” Worel says.

Moving forward, according to the NCHRP report, hot-mix asphalt will continue to be a major focus of accelerated testing programs. At FHWA in particular, research also is trending toward evaluation of environmentally sensitive materials, such as warm-mix asphalt and recycled asphalt materials, and application of hot-mix asphalt overlays and ultrathin whitetopping to extend pavement life.

Originally Published by Public Roads Magazine

Project Awareness through Paid, Owned and Earned Media

Everyone likes categories, definitions and clear distinctions. Advertisers, marketers, public relations practitioners and business owners are no exception. Everyone prefers clearly defined boundaries and realms of influence and expertise.

But the truth is, those boundaries no longer exist. Media is now an amalgam of many disciplines, mediums and tactics.  Here is a quick overview of today’s media landscape that can assist to reach stakeholders and enhance awareness of your transportation project.

Paid Media
Paid media incorporates traditional, traditional digital and new paid digital channels. Banner ads, paid search, sponsorships and syndicated content. The goal is to create brand recognition and project awareness through mass audience exposure and direct response. This is often very expensive, but offers total creative control. Any mass brand messaging must also compete for attention. Your competitors are no longer your only concern. Consumers are bombarded from every angle with advertising. It’s hard to stand out. Paid media is also one starting point on a consumer journey. The journey no longer begins and ends with the paid ad. Paid media is a part of any good earned media strategy.

Owned Media
Owned media is your project’s controlled content. Websites, blogs, email, newsletters and social media profiles are all a part of the owned media. These messages are more specifically targeted to an existing community and current stakeholders. While the actual dissemination of media is free, the cost of creating content and managing platforms a consideration, but manageable. . Owned media should be positioned to reach your targets and keep them up-to-date on the project.

Earned Media
Earned media is the result of project visibility through owned media and the trickle down exposure from paid media. This is where the public relations and advertising boxes begin to really share responsibility. Public Relations practitioners no longer limit their goal to seeking journalistic coverage, but also seeding coverage and mentions from social platforms, bloggers and any other digital presence. Engagement from a paid strategy is aimed at building a relationship through owned media and those interactions should promote exposure via social networks. This is the trickle down effect of paid media to earned media. It stretches the traditional definitions, but this is all a part of merging media categories.

Each entity is no longer separate. Once the social age took hold, any successful media strategy accounts for the change. Media has evolved from the paid commercial of yesteryear, to the holistic incorporation of all digital, social and paid presence.

Transportation project awareness, marketing and PR are no different. Understanding the differences of paid, owned and earned media can focus your message and further your reach to keep stakeholders engaged, and most importantly, informed.




TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION: Midtown Tunnel sections now floating toward Portsmouth

The Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project team has begun the process of towing down the first six of 11 tunnel sections for the new Midtown Tunnel. The tunnel elements will be towed from the SKW Constructors JV fabrication facility in Sparrows Point, Md., to the Portsmouth Marine Terminal in Portsmouth, Va., in preparation for placement in the Elizabeth River beginning this fall.

Under current weather conditions, the first element is scheduled to arrive in Hampton Roads as early as this Friday, June 13, 2014.

The first step of the process, flooding the dry dock at Sparrows Point, began early Monday, June 9. All six completed elements will be moved out of the dry dock and temporarily moored in the Baltimore harbor for final outfitting ahead of the journey. Fabrication of the five remaining tunnel elements begins immediately following the removal of the first six elements.

Each element will be towed down one at a time, with the first scheduled to have begun its trip already.

It will take each element approximately four to seven days to arrive. Barring any adverse weather conditions, it will take approximately five to seven weeks to tow the six completed elements, which will be moored at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal until installation.

Headquartered in Portsmouth, Va., Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo LLC is the private partner of the Virginia Department of Transportation for the design, construction, finance, operations and maintenance of the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, with SKW Constructors JV as design-build contractor. Located in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., the project consists of a new two-lane tunnel under the Elizabeth River parallel to the existing Midtown Tunnel; fire, life and safety modifications and upgrades to the existing Midtown Tunnel and Downtown Tunnels; interchange modifications in Norfolk and Portsmouth; and extending the MLK Freeway in Portsmouth from London Boulevard to I-264. More information can be found at

Originally Published in Roads & Bridgesonline. Click on the link to read original article.

Media Relations: Get them Involved and Keep the Coverage Going

If you want to execute some control over how your project is portrayed in the media, you need to consider your approach to media relations and media training. A proactive media relations program can promote positive news coverage during the project. Media training will prepare key spokeperson(s) from your project to stand up on camera.

Know the Basics
Educate yourself and your team on major and outlying media sources and keep in mind social media. Embrace your media. They are your primary conduits to the public. Compile a list of subject matter experts and approved spokesperson(s), including who is trained for on-camera interviews.

 Know the Big Picture
Consider the scope of your transportation project, consider motorist and community impact and consider the best use of media coverage.  Providing consistent coverage creates confidence in motorists, pedestrians and local communities impacted by your project.

·       Why does the public care about this project?
·       Who will benefit?
·       What communities are affected by this project?
·       What changes and updates should commuters be made aware of?

Know the Reporters
Targeting individual reporters, who cover project related subjects, increases your chances for project coverage.  Researching individual journalists takes time and persistence in the beginning, but builds the relationships essential for good public relations. Keep communication open and if you do not have an immediate response, touch base and let them know you are working on their request.

Know Your Message
Protect yourself with knowledge. Write out key talking points for each project and share with all key participants. If a reporter requires a quick response and you are unavailable, put the talking points in the hands of other project members will provide immediate, vetted information.

The bottom line, communication is key.  Whether this information is good or bad, honesty and facts are the best approach.  The community and key stakeholders are the ones who are directly impacted by your project, they deserve to have the correct information communicated in a clear and concise way.

Crisis Communications Planning for Transportation

Establishing a Crisis Communications Plan for each transportation project will mitigate negative repercussions and shorten crisis response time. Identify the possible risks associated with your project through discussions with your public relations team, legal staff, executives and project managers. Create a series of talking points addressing each potential crisis. These preparations facilitate immediate media response, but allow for the luxury of forethought and focus. Anticipate the needs of victims and possible legal consequences, and identify pertinent background information. Secure agreements with executives and legal staff concerning social media usage in the event of a crisis.

Crisis Communications for transportation public relations must happen quickly, almost instantly in a digital society. There is no time to create thorough plans after the crisis occurs, and the risks, talking points, facts and spokespersons must be identified in advance. Public opinion, inaccurate information and project members speaking to the media without authorization can muddle the message.

Each member of a project should be aware of existing crisis communications plans and the roles they are expected to fill in case of emergency. Identified spokespersons should be armed with relevant information and provided with on-camera media training. Any members participating in a project who are not qualified to speak with the media should be properly trained in media relations. Journalists on the hunt for a story can be ruthless, and their exploitation of untrained personnel is a risk factor to be identified.

In the event of a crisis, communicate facts honestly and quickly; do not attempt to hide. The public talks 24/7 on social media, and immediate engagement will mitigate negative reactions and minimize rumors. Express compassion for those involved and avoid shifting blame. A lack of sincerity, is obvious and detrimental. Providing regular status reports demonstrates compliance. Seventh Points Transportation Public Relations excels in crisis communications planning and possesses a unique transportation expertise.

Lawmakers support new Hampton Roads transportation commission

RICHMOND – A key House committee advanced two bills Tuesday that could overhaul transportation spending in Hampton Roads and across the state.

House Bill 1253 would create a new commission with the power to borrow money and implement tolls in Hampton Roads.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration says the change would inject more local control into toll deals and avoid agreements like the one that led to the tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels between Portsmouth and Norfolk.

That deal, negotiated by the state, drew heavy criticism, and McAuliffe announced a shift earlier this year to lower the new tolls at the tunnels. The tolls went into effect Feb. 1.

The 21-member body would be made up of the top elected officials from each of the 14 cities and counties in the region, plus two members of the House of Delegates, one senator and four designees from various state transportation entities, including the Commonwealth Transportation Board and the Virginia Port Authority.

It could hire staff, and decisions would generally require at least a two-thirds vote of the elected officials present at any given meeting.

“It creates a decision-making process run entirely by local and state elected officials,” said Dwight Farmer, director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, which puts together local transportation priorities now.

The HRTPO would continue to have planning responsibilities, but the commission would have planning duties, too. It’s unclear from the bill where one’s duties end and the other’s begin, but the commission would be able to impose tolls and borrow money to speed projects up, which the HRTPO cannot do.

The other bill, House Bill 2, also has backing from the McAuliffe administration and top GOP leaders in the House. It proposes new selection criteria for transportation projects across the state.

The idea is to assign scores to projects on several factors: easing congestion, improving safety, promoting economic development and improving accessibility or environmental quality. Hampton Roads already does something similar, but this would be a new statewide requirement, according to Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, the bill sponsor.

Local leaders would have input on which factors were most important, but the bill would require easing congestion to take the top spot in Hampton Roads.

Overall, Stolle said he wants the state to do a better job of explaining how and why it chooses to fund some projects but not others. He envisions a website that would list projects and give their scores for the various weighting factors.

“I think there’s a concern that the money’s not being spent wisely and we want to make sure that there’s a reproducible process that we can show the citizen,” he said.

The process should give the state more bang for its buck, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Farmer, the local transportation planning director, said he agrees with that assessment.

The fine print is complex, though, and transportation policy analysts are still sorting through some it.

“You still have to apply this criteria,” said Trip Pollard, an attorney who focuses on transportation for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Someone has to decide how many points do you get for (U.S. Route) 460? How many do you deduct for destroying 400 acres of wetlands?”

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously for the bill Tuesday without asking a single question, despite Chairman Thomas Rust, R-Herndon, noting the bill’s size, importance and complexity, then inviting members to debate the bill.

Peninsula committee members Mamye BaCote, D-Newport News, Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, and David Yancey, R-Newport News, voted for the bill.

The local vote count was the same for House Bill 1253, which passed the committee easily.

Both bills head now to the House floor.

Correction: This article has been edited to note that Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, voted for house bills 2 and 1253, as opposed to not voting. Yancey was out of the room during the votes, but logged his votes with the committee clerk, according to his office.

 Published February 4, 2014 in The Daily Press

Reckless Driving Bill to Protect Cops Introduced in VA

RICHMOND, Va. — The bill requested by the family of Virginia State Trooper Andrew Fox has been introduced in the Virginia State Senate and assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee, according to Virginia State Senator Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell.

Legislative Services assigned the number SB 293 to the bill. The bill summary is titled: “Reckless driving causing death or injury of certain persons,” and the text follows.

“Punishes reckless driving that causes the death or serious physical injury of a law-enforcement officer, emergency medical services personnel, highway worker, or firefighter engaged in his duties as a Class 6 felony with a $2,500 mandatory minimum fine.The bill further requires the court to suspend the offender’s driver’s license for one year. In addition, the court may impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 and the proceeds shall be deposited into the general fund.”

Trooper Fox, 27, a Tazewell, Va., native who was directing traffic at the Virginia State Fair on Oct. 5, 2012, when a driver leaving the fair ran over him. Fox died as a result of the injuries he received. The driver pleaded “no contest” to the reckless driving charge and was fined $1,000 and given a 12-month suspended sentence.

Lauren Fox, sister of the deceased trooper, corrected a quote attributed to her in a previous article about the family’s efforts to get the bill in the senate by stating: “Some emergency responders die as a result of accidents.” The family stated further: “With the passing of this bill and public education, we hope to show Virginia’s heroes we care about their safety as they put their lives in danger to make our lives safer. We also hope to send a message to drivers to slow down when they see emergency lights and pay closer attention while driving on Virginia’s roads.”

Puckett said last week that the bill hasn’t been introduced in the House, but he was hopeful that it would be introduced today. He said that “so far,” he’s the second senior member on the Senate Transportation committee, “but we’ll see how all that shakes out after the special elections.”

Two of the three successful candidates in Virginia’s statewide races were sitting Democrats. Only 22 votes separated the candidates he special election on Tuesday to elect a senator to complete the unexpired term of Democrat Ralph Northam, who was elected Lt. Governor. The Democrat, Lynwood Lewis Jr., was declared the winner, but the margin of victory over Republican candidate B. Wayne Coleman was within 1 percent, and will likely result in a re-count.

Another special election is scheduled on Jan. 21, to fill the unexpired term of Attorney General-elect Mark Herring. With both Herring and Northam in the Senate, the body was split 20-20, but with a challenging race ahead for Herring’s seat, as well as the tight vote on the Eastern Shore, nothing is certain.

“When people ask me what I think about the session, I tell them that I’m waiting until after the 21st to respond,” Puckett said.