Road warriors

Public roads suffer fewer potholes, bridges withstand stronger earthquakes and more materials get recycled due to a collaborative agreement between state agencies and the University of Nevada, Reno.

The university's civil engineering department helps the Nevada Department of Transportation with research projects on bridges and seismic earthquake shaking, says Dr.

Emmanuel Maragakis, chairman.

"This is one of biggest labs in the United States for earthquake research," says Maragakis."The Spaghetti Bowl has concepts developed at UNR."

Bridge-building concepts are tested at the research center on a shakeable machine costing $10 million.

Researchers can simulate earthquake levels, rhythms, and soil conditions using an accelerogram.

Three 14- square-foot shake tables can shake up to 50 tons.

The university works with the NDOT's bridge division on monitoring and retrofitting existing structures, plus new design methods, such as ways to retrofit support columns using steel jackets or advanced composites.

It also developed a new mixture design for high performance concrete.

Bill Crawford, chief bridge engineer at NDOT's Carson City office has worked with the civil engineering department.

"We identify a research project we would like to have done," he says,"and the scope of the project.

They assign faculty and students to do the research.We create a contract for payment."

For example, the state turned to the lab as it looked for cost-effective ways to retrofit highway structures for seismic safety.

"They've done testing on materials and on structural details for seismic, simulating earthquakes on the shake tables," Crawford says.

The retrofitting process for all the Interstate 80 bridges through downtown Reno was first tested through UNR."We put a wall between the columns as a result of the research." At the Regional Transportation Commission, Senior Engineer Bill Vann says the agency has worked closely with Dr.

Peter Sebaaly, professor of civil engineering.

"They've done lab studies on the use of recycled asphalt pavement to put back into new asphalt.Aggregate makes up 92 to 96 percent of asphalt pavement.

Rather than waste that, we want to reuse it," says Vann.

Granite Construction also takes advantage of the Superpave Center at UNR.Adam Hand, branch division quality systems engineer at Granite, says the company tests binder agents at UNR labs.

"The pavement materials program has equipment we don't have,"Hand says.

"We use that for performance tests."

Researchers take materials into the lab to make a mixture that's put on dynamic modulers test equipment that simulates traffic loads and highway speeds to measure response to the load.

The faculty at UNR works to improve road equipment as well as composites.Dr.Allen Gates, interim chairman at the mechanical engineering department, says NDOT brought a snowplow problem to their attention.

"The shape of the plow blades presented a visibility problem," said Gates."We're in the process to see what's the nature of the problem."


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