Automated pothole patching and improved bridge construction techniques are among the cost-saving improvements that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is implementing thanks to studies conducted by the agency's research facility, the Virginia Transportation Research Council. With a typical annual budget of $9 million, the research council is conducting research that is expected to yield $57 million in savings for VDOT, according to Dr. Gary Allen, VDOT's chief of technology, research and innovation.
Automated pothole patching will allow VDOT workers to fill potholes more efficiently, reducing traffic backups for motorists. Self-contained spray-injected asphalt patching systems will be purchased for pothole-filling trucks and will be phased into service over time. Using the spray-injected asphalt patching system will save $1.2 million annually when available system-wide.
Other research conducted by the research council showed that using stainless steel-clad reinforcement bars can increase the service life of bridge decks to 100 years--two times their service life now. By using these corrosion-resistant reinforcement bars, the agency is expected to see $10 million in annual savings because concrete bridge decks will not have to be replaced as frequently.
The research council also found that using high-performance lightweight concrete in bridge beams reduces the number of beams needed and significantly increases the service life of the bridge. Bridges that are already being built with this innovative material include the Rte. 10 bridge over the Appomattox River and the Chickahominy River Bridge. The research council estimates that using this high-performance material in all bridge construction should save $25 million a year.
Other research projects that are being put to use include:
* Pavement evaluation vehicle--Evaluates the smoothness of the road for all pavement contracts and makes sure that the pavement meets contract specifications;
* Smart Travel Lab--Linked with the Smart Traffic Centers in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and Richmond. The lab provides an off-line setting for testing new traffic management software, signal timing and incident scenarios;
* Smart Travel Van--Conducts air quality analysis and records speeds, occupancy and traffic patterns to augment VDOT's Smart Traffic Centers; and
* Helicopter video link for emergency medical screening--Helmet-based video camera would be worn by emergency medical technicians to communicate with doctors on the ground.