Completed Research



DEVELOPING METHODOLOGIES TO PREDICT AND QUANTIFY THE BENEFITS OF RESEARCH THAT CREATES DURABLE LASTING HIGHWAYS REPORT COVERAbstract:  This report provides the results of benefit analyses performed for five projects conducted by IRISE:

  1. Early Opening of Concrete Pavements to Traffic
  2. Preliminary Evaluation of Pavement Surface Distresses Related to Pavement Markings
  3. Remote-Controlled Technology Assessment for Safer Pavement Construction and QA/QC
  4. Development of a Simplified Mechanistic-Empirical Design Tool for Pennsylvania Rigid Pavements
  5. Material Compatible Repairs (MCRs) for Concrete Pavements and Bridge Decks

Each of the projects was examined in detail to determine the types of unique benefits that may be expected and then quantified based upon direct and indirect impacts.  Current analysis methodologies were researched and evaluated and novel methods or new practices were developed to predict improvements in highway infrastructure longevity achievable by applying the innovations suggested by the research.  Potential cost reductions were also assessed based on cost data obtained from PennDOT . Based upon case studies performed on an individual project basis, the potential benefits and cost reductions were determined to be significant.

Dr. Mark Magalotti, PE:

One Page Summaries:



Crack and spill evaluation and delamination evaluationAbstract:The purpose of this study was to establish a framework capable of integrating traditional non-destructive evaluation (NDE) and emerging automated unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based techniques to provide improved performance assessment of bridges. The framework focuses on addressing the principal challenges associated with studying the service life of bridge structures: (a) the long time scales (which requires accelerated aging), (b) the diverse outputs related to bridge condition (in terms of data collected through UAV, NDE, and visual inspection), and (c) an advanced data interpretation and fusion framework for automated detection and quantification of bridge surface and subsurface defects.

By leveraging the access to the unique dataset generated by the Bridge Evaluation and Accelerated Structural Testing (BEAST) facility, this study aimed to identify the potential synergies among bridge degradation, remaining service life, and the results taken from the multimodal sensing technologies (i.e., UAV and NDE techniques). Data processing frameworks based on deep learning and a systematic UAV data collection strategy were developed to automatically detect the surface defects from HD images and subsurface defects from Infrared thermography (IR) images.

New multi-source NDE data fusion methods based on discrete wavelet transforms and improved Dempster-Shafer evidence combination theory were proposed to provide a more comprehensive concrete bridge deck assessment.

Dr. Amir Alavi:



Abstract: Corrosion in steel bridges exposed to chloride attack from exposure to marine environments or de-icing salts is a significant issue which decreases structural integrity and increases maintenance requirements. Steel bridges exposed to these conditions require regular inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation, which drastically increases life-cycle costs.

This report provides a comprehensive literature review which highlights important issues related to corrosion in steel bridges with the objective of identifying shortcomings in current practice in Pennsylvania and identifying novel methods for further study and/or possible implementation. First, common forms of corrosion in steel infrastructure are reviewed. Next, corrosion prevention, mitigation and repair strategies are discussed including strategies currently utilized in Pennsylvania and by other state DOTs. Finally, promising corrosion prevention, mitigation and repair solutions are recommended. These solutions include: (1) implementing duplex coating systems, (2) identifying and evaluating novel approaches to prevent and mitigate crevice corrosion, (3) developing AI enabled corrosion monitoring methodologies, (4) eliminating joints in existing structures using debonded link slabs, and (5) further developing in-situ repair strategies for corrosion damaged components.

Dr. Jason Mash, PE:



IRISE final report cover image of the stormwater symposium project

Abstract: A series of stormwater seminars will be held at the University of Pittsburgh to share collective and emerging knowledge about storm water control technologies, particularly green infrastructure approaches, effective cross-jurisdictional strategies, and scenarios of climate and regulatory strategy that are fundamental to successful management of stormwater runoff. These seminars will center approaches that address multiple objectives (e.g., decreased water flow and improved water quality) and facilitate communication about emerging, and potentially unorthodox, methods.

Dr. Daniel Bain:


Landslide Best Practices

Landslide Best Practices Handbook cover with two images of landslides on a hill

Abstract: The Landslide Best Practices Handbook was written to produce region-specific guidance for practicing geotechnical engineers and geologists who are engaged to mitigate adverse impacts from an active landslide or reduce the risk of landslide movement for infrastructure.  Best practice guidelines for the life cycle of a landslide mitigation response including approach, characterization, assessment and mitigation are presented.  A best practice framework for slope maintenance and slope management systems are also included. 

Dr. Fatma Ciloglu, PE:



Abstract:  With the proliferation of landslides impacting transportation systems in western Pennsylvania, PennDOT Districts 11 and 12, the Central Office, FHWA and other members of the IRISE consortium identified the need for a forum to discuss recent/ongoing activities.   The design of the workshop stressed current work to identify, anticipate, and remediate landslides.  It provided an opportunity to share experiences and discuss best practice approaches.  In the end, a discussion of future needs helped to prioritize activities and focus on the best use of available technology and resources to mitigate this critical regional problem.

121 individuals representing over 40 organizations in the public, private and academic sectors participated.  Presentations during three workshop sessions addressed the following topics:  Historical Perspective and Identification, Prediction, Remediation & Prioritization, and Managing Risks.  The workshop concluded with a discussion of future needs by a panel consisting of leaders of western Pennsylvania government and academic institutions.

Dr. Anthony Iannacchione, PE, PG:



TOWARD USING MICROBES FOR SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS: A FEASIBILITY STUDYAbstract: Reinforced Concrete (RC) structures are susceptible to damage from long-term exposure to chloride-based compounds (e.g., from marine environments or deicers) and/or repeated freeze/thaw cycles. To mitigate damage and degradation from environmental loading, an estimated $16 billion per year is spent on the rehabilitation of RC structures using cementitious patching materials and/or chemical treatments, which contribute to pollution and require repeated application and maintenance.

To mitigate these detrimental environmental impacts, this study evaluated the feasibility of increasing the durability, resiliency and sustainability of RC structures by using microbes to provide self-healing properties to prevent water and chloride ingress through structural and/or environmental cracking. State-of-the-art research has begun to explore microbial carbonate precipitation (MICP) for limestone, marble and, to a lesser extent, RC restoration. However, many challenges remain including:

  1. Finding non-pathogenic microbes capable of MICP;
  2. Developing methods to ensure microbial viability and even distribution throughout the material to be restored and;
  3. Creating and evaluating new RC formulations aimed at improving and or sustaining MICP.

This research focused on addressing these challenges, providing insight into the potential application of bio-restoration of RC, which will have far reaching applications for green building design and resilient and sustainable construction.

Dr. Sarah Haig:



Abstract: Partial-depth repairs are a rehabilitation method commonly performed on concrete pavements and bridge decks to restore the integrity of the structure. However, in the past, partial-depth repairs have not always achieved their expected life. Some contributing factors include poor construction practices and the use of nondurable repair materials. Another consideration not previously considered is the compatibility between the in-situ concrete and the repair material. Additional stress is generated at the interface between the repair material and the existing concrete when the two materials deform at differently rates. This has the potential to occur when the elastic modulus, thermal coefficient of expansion and/or the drying shrinkage of the repair material is significantly different from that of the existing concrete. The focus of this study is on investigating the effects of the incompatibility between the repair and existing concrete through a laboratory investigation and a computational study. Then a methodology was established for developing a performance engineered repair material (PERM) to be used for performing a material compatible repair (MCR). This is accomplished through the proper selection of a coarse aggregate so that stiffness and thermal compatibility between the repair material and the existing concrete is assured. Internal curing was also investigated to reduce the drying shrinkage of the repair material to minimize the potential for debonding between the repair and the older existing concrete.

Dr. Steven Sachs:

Site Visits: 9/27/19 | 6/16/19


Preliminary Evaluation of Pavement Surface Distresses Related to Pavement Markings.

Marking-Pavement-DistressAbstract: Since road marking research is traditionally focused on the life-cycle performance of various marking materials in terms of durability and visibility, little is known about the effect of surface markings on pavement performance. Nevertheless, transportation agencies have reported the presence of pavement distresses, such as cracking and raveling, under or along pavement markings. This project investigated whether pavement markings cause pavement surface deterioration. Pavement sections with distresses potentially caused by pavement markings were identified. Visual surveys were performed to identify whether the surface distresses were located directly below or in the vicinity of the markings, relating the damaged area to the overall surface condition. Nondestructive testing was performed to evaluate the marking/pavement condition. Finite element modeling was conducted to evaluate the potential effect of temperature differentials on the interaction between markings and pavement surfaces. Results strongly indicate the issues with longitudinal joint compaction are the main culprit for pavement deterioration around longitudinal pavement markings. Recommendations regarding longitudinal joint construction and evaluation as well as pavement marking installation were proposed to avoid early pavement marking deterioration.

Dr. Lev Khazanovich:



Concrete Strength Graph at 1-7 days

Abstract: Earlier opening of concrete pavement to traffic without detriment to short- and long-term pavement performance can reduce construction time and improve driver satisfaction. Improving concrete strength estimations in the field and strength gain predictions as well as early age damage modeling are keys to optimizing openings to traffic. To evaluate the estimation of concrete strength, laboratory and field studies were conducted using maturity and ultrasonic tomography. It was found that both methods were efficient and resulted in reasonable concrete strength estimations for in-situ pavements, but ultrasonic tomography was found to have advantages over the maturity method, such as improved correlation and mobility.

A strength gain prediction model was created using both nondestructive methods that combined the benefits of ultrasonic tomography for strength estimation with the predictive ability of the maturity method for future strength development prediction. A mechanistic-based early opening damage analysis procedure incorporating the combined nondestructive testing technique for strength evaluation was developed to predict the effect of early loading on transverse cracking and dowel bar performance for Pennsylvania climatic conditions. A web-based tool was created to facilitate the implementation of this procedure for determining the optimal time when paving projects can be opened to traffic without significant damage.

User cost analysis showed that early opening a pavement to traffic would have significant benefits on urban arterial roadways and a minor effect on freeways.

Dr. Lev Khazanovich:



To accelerate the implementation of AASHTO Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide (MEPDG) in Pennsylvania, a simplified ME design method and a localized design tool are developed for concrete pavement. The new procedure, PittRigid ME, is based on the AASHTO MEPDG design procedure, but restricts design input parameters to the most influential and relevant for Pennsylvania conditions. It matches the MEPDG predicted performance at a fraction of the computational cost.

PittRigid ME can be used to predict pavement performance (i.e. fatigue cracking and joint faulting) or determine the concrete slab thickness and dowel diameters for given performance criteria and reliability level. It simplifies design process and reduces potential design errors from improper use of the AASHTOWare Pavement ME software.

The development of PittRigid ME procedure is documented in this report.

An installation file for the PittRigid ME application can be downloaded here. 

Dr. Lev Khazanovich:



Ground penetrating radar presentationAbstract: Pavement construction, inspection and maintenance are activities that often require workers near heavy equipment, traffic and dangerous materials. This proximity to potential hazards along with the characteristics of highway and street work zones - transient and restricted areas - increases the possibility of accidents and near-misses. Recent developments in remote-controlled technology can provide workers and inspectors the ability to conduct activities from a safer distance. This project aimed at scanning and evaluating several promising remote-controlled technologies that could be used to improve safety in highway and streets work zones. The technology scanning disclosed over twenty technologies in several levels of development that met this goal. Three technologies were selected for a more detailed review: the Remote-Controlled Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) for Asphalt Density, the Automated Real-Time Thermal Profiling for Asphalt Paving, and the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle. Each technology was evaluated not only based on safety features but also on productivity, data processing, and, especially, requirements for implementation. Workshops with vendors and leading experts were promoted for each technology. Field demonstrations were conducted for the Density Profiling System for determining in-situ asphalt density. Finally, several recommendations for implementation of the selected technologies were provided.

Dr. Lev Khazanovich:


Investigating New Underground Utility Location Technologies and Novel Methods to Improve the Safety and Efficiency of Highway Construction

Diagram of underground utilitesAbstract: Recent advancements in underground utility detection technologies, particularly ground-penetrating radar (GPR), have revolutionized the ability to locate underground utilities, crucial for worker safety and highway construction efficiency. GPR offers faster and more accurate data acquisition through multi-channel devices and various wave frequencies. Software developments have eliminated the need for extensive training, making GPR more accessible. Moreover, data interpretation and visualization techniques have been refined to enhance location accuracy and user-friendliness. In conjunction with GPR, acoustic methods are being explored to address limitations of traditional technologies. Although no single technology can meet all objectives simultaneously, a combination of devices can be employed based on site conditions. Factors such as pipe material, environmental conditions, and the presence of other utilities or underground objects must be considered. This study evaluated several GPR-based devices and recommends three equipment types for different construction stages, aligned with objectives outlined by local contractors and agencies.

Dr. Lev Khazanovich:



Workers laying asphalt on a roadAbstract: According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), every year more than 100 workers are killed and 20,000 are injured in the highway and street construction industry. Almost half of these accidents are from the movement of construction equipment and other construction-related activities. This project will identify and rank dangerous scenarios, taking into consideration near-misses, in highway and street construction in Pennsylvania. It will develop recommendations for avoiding or minimizing dangerous scenarios in the future and provide qualitative information for the improvement of safety training and development of safety-related equipment.

Dr. Lev Khazanovich: