SHRP 2: Iowa State engineers help build national highway research program

Iowa State University researchers are at the forefront of a national highway research program – The Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2).

SHRP 2 is a second-generation national highway research program administered by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies (TRB) and in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2009, the program addresses the most pressing needs related to the nation’s highway system. TRB describes these needs as 1) the high toll taken by highway deaths and injuries, 2) aging infrastructure that must be rehabilitated with minimum disruption to users, and 3) congestion stemming both from inadequate physical capacity and from events that reduce the effective capacity of a highway facility.

SHRP 2 needs have been categorized: 1) safety, 2) infrastructure renewal, 3) reliability, and 4) capacity. Iowa State is involved in three of the 11 projects awarded nationally in the safety focus area. Iowa State researchers particularly contribute expertise in naturalistic/human behavior, roadway environments, and traffic safety to the SHRP 2 area.

Associate Professor Omar Smadi led the development of the SHRP 2 Roadway Information Database, which contains crash histories, traffic and weather conditions, work zones, and active safety campaigns from about 12,000 centerline miles of highways.

Shauna Hallmark, professor and director of the Iowa State University Institute for Transportation (InTrans), focuses on the relationship between the driver and roadway in this study. She applies research of driver behavior to rural lane departure research.

In recent years, researchers of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute collected an enormous data set – four pentabytes (4 million gigabytes) – on how drivers actually behave. Data include vehicle speed, acceleration, and braking; all vehicle controls; lane position; forward radar; and video views forward, to the rear, and on the driver’s face and hands. The Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) involved 3,102 volunteer drivers across six states recorded one to two years depending on the driver.

Hallmark and Smadi partner with the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Department of Transportation on similar driver behavior, speed limit enforcement projects. One project, which InTrans‘ Center for Transportation Research and Education conducts, uses NDS data to evaluate roadway departure characteristics from driver first-hand views. In another project, The Center for Transportation Research and Education uses NDS data to study driver first-hand views pertaining to speed and driver distraction in work zone crashes and near-crashes.

Associate Professor Peter Savolainen studies how distractive driver behavior and speed limit enforcement influence automobile crashes. His research partners the Michigan State Department of Transportation and Iowa State University. On Oct. 21, 2014, he presented at the National Transportation Safety Board Drowsy Driving Conference. “Recently there has been a lot of discussion on how the impetus falls on the driver to reduce drowsy driving crashes and fatalities,” Savolainen said. “Looking to the future, I think the interoperability between vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications present a really promising roadmap for reducing these kinds of crashes.”

The comprehensive NDS, Roadway Information Database, and Savolainen’s research will bring together physical environments and driver behavior to determine a more inclusive analysis of what causes automobile crashes.

Professor Vern Schaefer and Associate Professor Jennifer Shane were instrumental in earlier road environment SHRP 2 projects.

From 2007 through the end of 2014, Schaefer developed geotechnical solutions for soil improvement, rapid embankment construction, and stabilization of the pavement working platform. He collaborated with industry representatives, Virginia Tech, and University of Kansas to develop Geotech Tools, a free web-based information and guidance system for engineers, project managers, and associated personnel.

From September 2009 through July 2014, Shane developed project management strategies for complex transportation projects. She expanded three-dimensional project management analysis to a five-dimensional analysis: cost, schedule, technical, plus the new components – financial and context.

Research Associate Professor Brent Phares and several Iowa State faculty researchers partnered with HNTB Corporation to develop a design toolkit for prefabricated bridge elements. These elements include standard design concepts for foundation systems, as well as substructure and superstructure systems, subsystems and components. These innovative, rapid renewal bridge designs provide economies of scale in manufacturing and construction, reduce traffic disruption, and increase safety. This project originated in October 2007 and was completed in March 2014.

More than a dozen Iowa State doctoral student research projects have been created as part of the SHRP 2 program. Several more doctoral students will be assigned to projects as the next generation of SHRP 2 develops.

The first-generation SHRP was authorized by U.S. Congress between 1987 and 1993. That program consisted of research pertaining to the physical environment of highways: asphalt, concrete and structures, highway operations, and pavement performance.

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