The Kentucky Transportation Center
Integrity. Dedication. Innovation. Efficiency. The Kentucky Transportation Center strives to keep these principles at the foundation of all research tasks. Now is the time for smarter and more rapid infrastructure development, and the Center is committed to providing transformative solutions to the most critical problems facing today’s transportation systems. Growing from a small research division founded in 1941, today KTC is a vibrant hub of applied multidisciplinary transportation research. KTC has built a strong partnership with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet while continuously growing its client base by collaborating with other transportation agencies across the United States. Spread across 12 program areas housed on the University of Kentucky campus, the Center’s staff enjoys a strong and enduring relationship with the Department of Civil Engineering. KTC’s multidisciplinary focus allows researchers to touch on every dimension of multimodal transportation. As the Center expands, it will continue to deliver practical solutions and disperse knowledge that will benefit how the public experiences and interacts with complex transportation systems.
Welded steel bridges are prone to fatigue cracking that begins slowly, until the crack is sizeable enough to produce unstable brittle fractures. KTC is investigating the cause of cracking in a fascia girder on an overpass bridge on I-24 in Trigg County. Through inspection, mechanical analysis of the bridge’s fractured components, and determination of the bridge steel, KTC will find the root cause of cracking.
This project employed an updated method of processing traffic characteristics data. A series of quality control and analytical programs produced an estimate of the following parameters of interest: 1) average daily traffic, 2) percent trucks, 3) percent trucks classified as heavy/coal, 4) axles per truck, 5) axles per heavy/coal truck, 6) ESALs per truck axle, 7) ESALs per heavy/coal truck axle.
Compared to other states and regions, Kentucky has some of the highest worker incident rates in the nation. KTC examined the safety culture within highway construction and researched the safety best practices of highway construction workers. Those practices will be included in training that enhances the Cabinet’s worker safety programs and policies.
During wet weather, there are two life-threatening pavement grade issues that can occur on interstates and state highways. The combination of a rainstorm leaving standing water on the roadway, one-quarter inch of pavement rutting, and a motorist traveling over 45 mph can send a vehicle into a dangerous and possibly fatal hydroplane.
KTC PROGRAM AREAS
Bridges are vital nodes that ensure the connectivity of sprawling surface transportation networks. With the bridge inventory of the United States rapidly aging, and federal, state, and local departments of transportation lacking the financial resources to replace these structures, it is critical to identify and implement novel bridge preservation strategies to prolong their service lives. KTC’s Bridge Preservation research group works on questions related to the techniques of maintenance and upkeep on Kentucky’s bridges.
Building and maintaining infrastructure in a timely and efficient manner is critical for the advancement of society. The mission of KTC’s Construction Engineering & Project Management group is to perform research that improves the development and delivery of infrastructure projects with a focus on safety, cost, schedule, and quality. The group’s researchers have collaborated extensively with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and over the past five years have quickly rose to national prominence.
A persistent challenge federal, state, and local government agencies must confront is identifying economically viable methods to finance new infrastructure projects while maintaining the operation and functionality of existing roads, highways, and bridges. With shrinking transportation budgets, it is imperative for these agencies to stretch their scarce dollars and maximize returns on investment. KTC’s Economics, Finance, and Policy research group partners with many agencies to understand the economic implications of emerging technologies.
The Kentucky Transportation Center has a long history of providing workshops and training courses for professionals in consulting firms and state transportation agencies. The Center supports the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet by teaching Project Management Boot Camp (PMBC). The Center also developed a nationally recognized two-day course on Context-Sensitive Design/Solutions, delivering it on-site to 15 state DOTs. KTC supports Civil Engineering graduate and undergraduate students by providing numerous transportation research opportunities. Emphasizing multidisciplinary research, the Center helps students and young professionals develop a broad set of skills that will benefit them as they enter the workforce or pursue graduate studies.
The primary objective of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program is to integrate advanced technologies into the current system for greater efficiency and improved safety. Our investigators determine possible uses for a broad range of technologies, including wireless and wire line communications, information technologies and various other electronic applications and equipment. We are involved in the planning, implementation, management and evaluation of various types of ITS-related projects. The program has enjoyed national prominence for more than 20 years and began with a substantial role in Commercial Vehicle Operations (CVO) projects, particularly the Advantage I-75 Mainline Automated Clearance System.
The foundation of any soundly implemented highway project is quality materials, superb engineering, and a forward-looking maintenance strategy. Without these, even new roads can quickly fall into a state of disrepair, causing transportation agencies to shoulder immense costs to preserve their operations. KTC’s Pavements, Materials, Geotechnology, and Infrastructure Assessment group oversees a sweeping research program dedicated to improving the durability, resiliency, and service lives of roadways, highways, and bridges.
Infrastructure projects are complex endeavors that require the harmonious coordination of many stakeholders throughout their development and implementation. Thoughtful planning is necessary to deliver projects that meet the needs and goals of transportation agencies, diverse system users, and the myriad industries that rely on networks of highways, waterways, railways, and airports. Good planning is a requirement for systems that function smoothly and are tightly integrated. KTC’s Planning program leverages interdisciplinary perspectives to support and improve the planning processes used by local, state, and federal transportation agencies.
Delivering successful highway construction projects requires sophisticated, multi-year planning efforts to ensure transportation agency employees, private contractors, and other stakeholders orchestrate their work in a coordinated manner. From the initial project concept through project letting, transportation agencies address many challenges such as creating an appropriate and efficient design, obtaining the necessary environmental clearances, acquiring right-of-way, and working with utility companies to relocate water, sewer, and electricity lines. KTC’s Project Development group specializes in helping state transportation agencies improve project development workflows and enhance project delivery.
Solving complex transportation problems often requires a multidisciplinary focus, one that brings together the expertise of researchers with diverse training and skill sets. Developing holistic, multidisciplinary solutions helps to meet the needs of stakeholders who sometimes have competing priorities. KTC’s Special Projects & Initiatives research group brings together researchers from around the Center to address pressing questions on a range of topics — from environmental sustainability to hazardous materials and supply chain security. The group has completed projects on sustainable infrastructure, environmental mitigation, and the United States inland waterway system. Because of their skills in developing and delivering a variety of transportation projects, the group is launching the Center for Project Development and Delivery. This effort aims to fine-tune the art of project management and recommend the best practices for delivering safe, efficient, timely projects.
Approximately 25 percent of bridges in the United States have been classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Although the number of deficient bridges has gradually declined over the past 10 years, much work remains to be done, especially with many state transportation agencies having limited funds to allocate to repairing or replacing bridges that are quickly aging beyond their planned service lives. Dedicated to evaluating and monitoring bridges and other structures with the most sophisticated technology and modeling techniques, and strengthening new and existing structures with novel, high-performance materials, KTC’s Structure group is playing a critical role in helping to preserve the nation’s infrastructure.
Transportation professionals require easy access to continuing education options that will help them acquire new knowledge and sharpen their existing skill sets. The skilled trainers in KTC’s Technology Transfer (T2) program offer a range of courses across Kentucky that enable professionals to earn new certifications to maintain their current certifications. Included among T2’s offerings are the Traffic and Safety Academy, the Kentucky Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control Program, the Superpave Asphalt Qualification Program, Traffic Incident Management Responder Training, and Pesticide Training and Testing. The group also manages the Roads Scholar and Road Master Programs, which consist of courses that prepare local and state government employees with essential knowledge for maintaining local streets and roads.
While the number of injuries and fatalities attributable to vehicle crashes have generally declined steadily since the 1950s, transportation agencies throughout the United States still grapple with traffic issues so that drivers and passengers reach their destinations safely. The group compiles annual crash data reports for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and has been a key player in collecting data and performing analysis for the FHWA’s Highway Safety Improvement Program. Traffic & Safety researchers have pioneered applying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to traffic safety issues, and provided guidance to the FHWA on best practices for using GIS to advance highway safety. The section is a national leader in implementing the Highway Safety Manual — a science-based approach to highway safety.