Improving Texas highways

National praise for UTA research that reduces time and cost of repairing Texas highway

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019 • Herb Booth : UT Arlington Media Relations

National transportation officials have selected research from The University of Texas at Arlington that drastically reduces the cost and time spent repairing slope failures on Texas highways as one of 2019’s top projects.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) named the UTA effort as one of 2019’s Sweet Sixteen high-value research projects.

Mohsen Shahandashti
Mohsen Shahandashti

Mohsen Shahandashti, assistant professor of civil engineering, led the Texas Department of Transportation-funded project, “Exploring Rapid Repair Methods for Embankment Slope Failure.” It critically evaluated existing methods for rapid repair of embankment slope failures and recommended implementation procedures to avoid recurring failures.

Sahadat Hossain, a professor of civil engineering, was co-principal investigator.

“TxDOT has spent millions of dollars to repair slope failures,” Shahandashti said. “Through our research, we found that about half of those are recurring. If they use our approaches, we project significant cost savings. We can also identify slopes that are likely to fail, so that TxDOT can address issues before a failure occurs.”

Each year, all 50 state departments of transportation submit high-value research projects to the national association for consideration on the Sweet Sixteen list. Four projects from each of the organization’s four regions are selected. UTA’s project was one of four chosen from Region 4.

“This is tremendous recognition and underlines that the work of our faculty is not just at the cutting edge of research and scholarship, but that it has tremendous and purposeful impact,” UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said. “This designation is great recognition that our College of Engineering’s work is among the very best in the nation, and I’m extremely proud of Professors Shahandashti and Hossain for their research and mentorship of the next generation of leaders in this field through their focus on education.”

UTA’s research takes a unique approach known as geotechnical asset management, which examines slopes, pavement, soil, underground pipelines, retaining walls and other structures to create an online management system that TxDOT implemented to track repairs and data about potentially problematic slopes.

sahadat hossain
Sahadat Hossain

“Having this information easily accessible helps TxDOT do these repairs quickly—in one to two weeks instead of four months, at about 20% of the cost,” Hossain said. “The impact became obvious right away, and now that the system is in place, it can be applied to many problem areas.”

Bill Hale, chief engineer for TxDOT, said UTA’s recognition in the Sweet Sixteen is an exemplary honor in the transportation research area.

“With the TxDOT project that enlists UTA’s help this year, Texas has been awarded a Sweet Sixteen spot five out of the past eight years,” said Hale, who earned his master’s degree in civil engineering from UTA. “This is an acknowledgement that the work TxDOT is collaborating on with UTA is well-recognized as valuable research in our sector.”

Building on the results of their project, Shahandashti and Hossain were awarded two, two-year grants worth $518,245 in April. They will help TxDOT more effectively conduct underground geophysical explorations and develop action plans to mitigate soil failures. Shahandashti and Hossain’s research is an example of sustainable urban communities, one of four themes of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020.

AASHTO is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing highway and transportation departments across the United States. It represents all transportation modes including air, highways, public transportation, active transportation, rail and water. Its primary goal is to foster the development, operation and maintenance of an integrated national transportation system.