2016 CTR Symposium Focused on Practice
This year’s event emphasized tools to improve daily operations as well as practical application of research to create the next generation of engineers. This approach was well-received, prompting one of the attendees to express “thanks for including content more suited for your audience (TxDOT practitioners)—less theoretical academic presentations.” Complementing the day’s presentations was a poster session that allowed participants to meet with more than a dozen UT Austin graduate student researchers and transportation faculty, who demonstrated progress and preliminary findings in active projects representing the cutting edge of transportation research. See the day’s photo album.
We also announced this year’s winner of the Mac Shelby Award, which honors a TxDOT research staff member who has provided exceptional leadership, technical expertise, the ability to address special challenges, and dedication to research. That honor went to RTI Project Manager Darrin Jensen.
CTR researchers presented on these topics:
Dr. Bill O’Brien teamed up with TxDOT’s Chief Engineer Bill Hale for this look at a project delivery selection tool developed in response to TxDOT’s receiving legislative authority to use the design-build (DB) approach to projects. The most effective use of DB necessitates an objective but Texas-specific analysis of the best project delivery method for any given project. As part of an interagency contract with TxDOT, Dr. O’Brien’s team created an objective, flexible MS Excel-based decision-support tool that differentiates project goals and characteristics and gives quantitative measures to reach an informed recommendation for the project delivery method. Developed with the input of experienced TxDOT personnel, the team validated the tool with range of existing TxDOT project characteristics.
Dr. Eric Williamson presented some preliminary findings from ongoing TxDOT project 0-6916, Seismic Vulnerability and Post-Event Actions. This multidisciplinary team includes structural engineers, geologists/seismologists, and geotechnical engineers. Recent changes in Texas seismicity require characterization of earthquake hazards and soil conditions throughout the state, as well as the extent to which TxDOT-maintained bridges are vulnerable to these changes. The project, which concludes in December 2017, is helping TxDOT understand its exposure to seismic risk and create a clear plan of action for post-earthquake response.
Dr. Fernanda Leite filled us in on CIM (Civil Integrated Management) and BIM (Building Information Modeling), two techniques that enhance infrastructure project delivery. BIM is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. Dr. Leite highlighted the use of BIM for highway construction projects, which tend to present unique challenges. CIM is the technology-enabled collection and organization of accurate data and information used throughout the life cycle of a transportation asset, which can also benefit highway infrastructure from design through operation and maintenance. Dr. Leite is a team member on the recently completed NCHRP 10-96 project, which provides a guidebook for CIM implementation at DOTs.
Dr. Randy Machemehl partnered with TxDOT’s Kelly Selman, the Dallas District Engineer, to present an examination of the development program for Engineering Assistants (EA). Mandatory for all EAs hired in the Dallas District since 2009, the program fosters the development of transportation engineers. Program features include mentoring, formal instruction, exam preparation for the Professional Engineer credential, and functional area rotations. CTR’s analysis of the program identified its successes as well as potential areas for improvement, and compared its features to those of other DOTs’ training programs.
Overview of the USDOT Smart City Challenge: A Collaborative Ecosystem
The day’s final session was a panel discussion of the USDOT’s Smart City Challenge, in which the city of Austin is one of seven finalists. The USDOT has pledged up to $40 million to one city that will define the concept of a “Smart City” and become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies—self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors—into their transportation network. Dr. Mike Walton and Dr. Jen Duthie joined with TxDOT’s Director of Strategy and Innovation Darran Anderson for this overview of Austin’s participation in this challenge, highlighting CTR’s role in the proposal, which is to create and host a Data Rodeo. The Data Rodeo will be a single point of access for regional transportation data and analytics. The city of Austin’s proposal represents a regional effort, partnering entities such as CTR, TxDOT, Cap Metro, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the Southwest Research Institute, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Travis County, and various private companies.