Montana Department of Transportation

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Research

Experimental Projects Overview

Experimental Projects involve the deployment or field evaluation of new (new to Montana Department of Transportation) materials and/or methods in association with construction or maintenance projects. Topics for Experimental Projects range from asphalt and concrete to erosion control and fish passage to snow fences and everything in between.

Experimental Projects are designed and evaluated for the purpose of determining the implementation value of the new materials and/or methods, based on cost effectiveness and performance.

Research involvement begins at the initial proposal of an Experimental Project. Research staff will first determine if the need exists by literature reviews using various databases, such as Transportation Research International Database (TRID) and Research in Progress (RIP). Next, Research staff will help design the Experimental Project, with appropriate controls.

Research staff will also write and submit a work plan to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The work plan will include:

  • Location of the project;
  • Project number;
  • Title (type) of project;
  • Principal investigator;
  • Statement of objectives;
  • Experimental design;
  • Estimated quantities and costs; and
  • Evaluation schedule.

FHWA then reviews and approves or rejects the work plan. When a work plan is approved, FHWA assigns a tracking number.

Research staff are present during construction of each Experimental Project and write the construction report, which includes:

  • Statement of objectives;
  • Summary of materials and methods;
  • Quantity and cost of experimental feature(s) and control(s);
  • Construction problems, how they were dealt with, and a statement of how these problems might have been alleviated;
  • Dates of construction; and
  • Conditions during construction.

Research staff then visit and evaluate each Experimental Project as spelled out in the work plan. Annual and final project reports are written and implementation recommendations are made by Research staff.

Each MDT District has a Field Research Coordinator (FRC) assigned as a liaison between the Research and District Offices. Some of the duties of the FRC, in relation to Experimental Projects include:

  • Making Research staff aware of potential Experimental Projects; and
  • Helping Research staff evaluate Experimental Projects.

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