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Engineers Build Tiltable Roadway to Study Water Flow

March 7, 2003

Researchers have been known to go to extremes to get accurate measurements for their projects. Researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Engineering have created a good example of that attention to detail for their studies of water flow across a concrete roadway; they’re constructing a 20’ by 68’ section of roadway in the basement of Nedderman Hall.

The roadway is located in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department’s Hydraulics Laboratory. The project is being funded through a three-year, $436,000 grant from the Texas Department of Transportation to study street flow capacity. The research is being conducted under the direction of Professors Anand Puppala, Ernest Crosby and Max Spindler. “The original calculation methods to determine the water carrying capacity of a street were developed in the 1940’s and are based on geometric cross sections,” said Dr. Crosby. “Today’s design method is based on an integral calculus approach, and the two methods differ significantly. As a result, the depth of storm water spread across the pavement is greater than those indicated by the current design techniques. This increases the probability for hydroplaning and flooding. We need a clearer understanding of this phenomenon if roadways are to maintain their optimal safety characteristics during periods of rain.”

The test facility consists of a full-size driving lane and gutter atop an articulated platform that can be tilted up to five degrees both laterally and longitudinally. The concrete roadway surface is fabricated on 4’ by 8’ steel frames; this modular construction permits the installation and testing of different roadway surfaces. Water from a 20,000-gallon storage tank will be pumped into a 5,000-gallon diffusing tank that will stabilize and smooth the flow onto the pavement. No other full-scale test facility is known to be performing these types of investigations.