Building better Texas roads
Credit: UT Arlington
Two civil engineering researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington are working with the Texas Department of Transportation to better monitor and predict soil weakness, which can lead to slope failures on state highways.
Mohsen Shahandashti, UTA assistant professor of civil engineering, is leading two, two-year projects worth $518,245. Sahadat Hossain, a UTA civil engineering professor, is a co-principal investigator on the projects.
They will help TxDOT more effectively conduct underground geophysical explorations and develop action plans to mitigate soil failures. Shahandashti said recurring slope failures happen frequently in Texas due to the extreme weather and soil conditions.
“UTA is in a position to reduce recurring slope failures, lessen construction costs and decrease maintenance costs for TxDOT and taxpayers,” Shahandashti said. “The benefits go beyond mere cost savings. Better roads would enhance safety, lengthen a road’s life, make the transportation system more reliable and ease traffic congestion.”
The first project’s goals include
- collecting data to assess and map the conditions of highway slopes;
- developing slope failure predictive models;
- recommending rapid, resilient and sustainable repair methods to prevent recurring failures;
- and developing a repair and maintenance master plan.
The second grant requires the researchers to
- implement geophysical tools that are not commonly used in Texas;
- identify and recommend how those advanced tools can improve the agency’s geotechnical analysis;
- develop decision flowcharts for dealing with buried utilities, foundation depth or geological formations; and design parameters for soil plasticity, liquidity, sulfate content, moisture variations and forensic evaluations.
Shahandashti said the team also will develop a manual for implementing and demonstrating electrical resistivity profiling in five current TxDOT projects in five different districts of the state to cover different geotechnical conditions and environments. Electrical resistivity in this project means how well the soil allows the flow of electric current. The UTA team also will conduct regional training workshops.
Ali Abolmaali, chair of the UTA Department of Civil Engineering, said the work Shahandashti and Hossain are doing for TxDOT flows easily into two themes of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020: sustainable urban communities and global environmental impact.
“Better and longer-lasting infrastructure are keys to how successful Texas can be now and in the future,” Abolmaali said. “These projects bring UTA to the forefront of infrastructure and soil research. It allows decision-makers to make better choices for Texas.”
Shahandashti, who started at UTA in 2016, develops foundations and applications to enhance analytics for resilient construction and infrastructure systems. He specializes in leveraging big-data sources along with recent advances in statistics, computer science and operations research to address construction and infrastructure grand challenges.
His present and past research activities have been funded by several funding agencies, including TxDOT, the city of Arlington, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, and the Engineering Information Foundation.
Hossain, who also works with TxDOT to use recycled plastic pins for slope stabilization, is the director of UTA’s Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability. His research and scholarship are well recognized nationally and internationally. He is an expert in the design of waste containment and bioreactor landfill technology, having worked on different aspects of bioreactor landfill engineering design and operational practices for last 15 years.
U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 “Best Graduate Schools” list ranks the College of Engineering No. 82 in the nation. The SR Education group ranked UTA No. 9 on its list of “Best Online Colleges Offering a Master’s in Civil Engineering” for 2019.