EDC-5 CHANGE: Collaborative Hydraulics (2.0) Advancing to the Next Generation of Engineering

On August 6th the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! on “EDC-5 CHANGE: Collaborative Hydraulics (2.0) Advancing to the Next Generation of Engineering.” This event featured a presentation by Dr. Eric Brown, Senior Hydraulic Engineer, Geotechnical & Hydraulic Engineering, from the FHWA’s Resource Center. Under Round 5 of the Every Day Counts (EDC) program, Collaborative Hydraulics (2.0) provides the next-generation hydraulic modeling tools to improve the understanding of complex interactions between river or coastal environments and transportation assets, enabling better design, enhanced communication, and more efficient project delivery.

Example of 2D Modeling Results. Image credit: Nebraska DOT

Dr. Brown began his presentation by providing a background of the discipline of hydraulic engineering and its place within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This included an overview of the hydraulic engineering team at FHWA, including specializations and technical expertise. The National Hydraulic Team provides its FHWA offices nationwide with assistance in the hydraulic discipline. This includes interpreting policies, publications, advancing new technologies, and recommending guidance when division offices are faced with unusual drainage problems.

Through the EDC-5 Initiative, FHWA has begun implementing its next-generation hydraulic modeling tools. Thanks to recent advances in computer hardware, modeling software, and data collection, 2-D modeling has become very efficient, intuitive, and accessible to engineers and designers. Not only are 2-D models more accurate, but they can be communicated easily to others in 3-D form.

Dr. Brown then introduced various tools that showcase FHWA’s capabilities. These included channel analysis, Weir analysis, detention basin analysis, riprap design, culvert assessments, and bridge scour analyses. These tools were then further highlighted through the hydraulic models FHWA utilizes with their newest software. These models were used to determine elevation, shear stresses, and flow velocities to assist with construction decisions.  Several other software were also highlighted, such as the US Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center’s River Analysis System. This software allows the user to perform one-dimensional steady flow, one and two-dimensional unsteady flow calculations, sediment transport/mobile bed computations, and water temperature/water quality modeling. In particular, the ability for one- and two-dimensional unsteady flow simulation provided the user the greatest ability to perform analysis of water flow through open channels, floodplains, and projecting impact to construction projects.

2D Modeling: SMS & SRH2D. Image credit: Nebraska DOT

With so many available tools and models, Dr. Brown’s discussion turned to his advice on what models were most appropriate for which situations. Dr. Brown recommended the 2-D modeling software for floodplains, tidal conditions, stream and river crossings with multiple bridges, and many other situations in which water was flowing in many different directions.  Through the use of various examples from across the country, Dr. Brown described how these 2-D models can provide more accurate designs with a more visually intuitive way of communicating their results.  Dr. Brown also demonstrated the ability of 2-D modeling in dealing with the aftermath of flood events; in one example after a flood had damaged the bridge deck and abutments, 2-D modeling was used to determine the amount of roadway and bridge overtopping flow to assist designers with the new roadway profile and scour protection.

This EDC-5 initiative has introduced dozens of DOTs around the country to these 2-D modeling tools. Dr. Brown highlighted these implementations from DOT’s in states like Alaska, Georgia, Nevada, and Montana. He then pitched the value of the model to NJDOT, not only in the power and strength of the tool, but in the ability that the use of cutting edge technology would provide NJDOT in its mission to attract and retain a high quality workforce.

Resources

View the presentation: Brown, E.R. (2019). New Jersey Department of Transportation Tech Talk: EDC-5 CHANGE and 2-D Modeling Considerations.

NJDOT Awarded Accelerated Innovation Deployment Grant to Start Weather-Savvy Roads Pilot Program

The Federal Highway Administration has awarded NJDOT a $322,461 Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) Demonstration grant to “start a ‘weather-savvy roads’ pilot program to improve roadway safety and operational efficiency.”

Preliminary plans include equipping up to 20 NJDOT road maintenance vehicles with dash-mounted cameras and weather sensors, which will feed real-time data directly to NJDOT year-round. The data will support improved awareness of road conditions and faster response times during weather events.[1] New Jersey’s winter season includes frequent precipitation, making for slick road conditions and added congestion. The data retrieved from the cameras and sensors will help quicken operations and also enhance deployment of incident management strategies.

This is the first AID grant applied for through New Jersey’s State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC). This year, FHWA awarded $8.4 million to nine states for work on innovative highway and bridge projects to improve safety and operational efficiency.

Importance of Weather-Responsive Management Strategies

Weather effects on our nation’s roads have enormous social and economic costs. According to the FHWA, 1.2 million (or 21 percent) of the more than 5.7 million vehicle crashes over the past 10 years were weather-related. Nearly 6,000 people are killed and over 445,000 are injured in weather-related crashes each year. In terms of mobility, the weather is responsible for 25 percent of non-recurring delays as well as congestion costs of up to $9.5 billion per year for 85 urban areas[2] and $3.4 billion in freight costs.

To address these problems, states can implement weather-responsive management strategies, which have many benefits including reducing crash risks and delays, lowering negative environmental impacts by minimizing road salt use, and enabling travelers to make better driving decisions.

In recent years, the FHWA Road Weather Management Program has focused on using mobile observations and connected vehicle data to support traffic and maintenance management. States such as Nevada, Michigan, and Minnesota have already implemented winter maintenance/anti-icing strategies using “Integrating Mobile Observations” (IMO), which involves collecting weather and road condition data from government fleet vehicles. Pathfinder, another solution, is a collaborative strategy across state DOTs to disseminate road weather information for proactive transportation system management ahead of, and during, adverse weather events.

Every Day Counts and State Transportation Innovation Councils

The AID program works closely with the FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) program to foster a culture of innovation. Every two years, FHWA works with state DOTs and other public and private stakeholders to identify new sets of innovative technologies that merit widespread deployment to address transportation challenges. State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs) from all fifty states then meet to evaluate these innovations and lead deployment efforts.

Weather management was named a priority in recent years. In 2017-2018 the fourth round of EDC (EDC-4) cited11 innovations including “Road Weather Management – Weather-Savvy Roads.” In 2018-2019, EDC-5 identified 10 innovations including “Weather-Responsive Management Strategies.

See the FHWA’s Innovation Spotlight video on Road Weather Management: Weather Savvy Roads.