Special Projects and Initiatives

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. A key federal initiative the group has spearheaded over the past 10 years has been the development of Fedtrak™, a risk management system that combines Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and risk modeling to secure the nationwide movement of Tier 1 Highway Security-Sensitive Materials across the nation’s roadways and highways. The group has also 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.

Special Projects & Initiatives – News & Research

Maintenance Budget Allocation

Maintenance function and funding is often misunderstood, particularly the consequences of underfunding. Once the maintenance budget is approved, it cannot be increased even when funds are running out, resulting in KYTC restricting routine activities. KTC created a graphic for public and legislative audiences that communicates the importance of Maintenance and quantifies the need and importance of funding, with the hopes of improving the process of allocating a maintenance budget.

Maintenance and Operations are the responsibility of KYTC’s divisions of Maintenance and Traffic Operations and district staffs.  The tasks they perform vary widely, to include pothole patching, guardrail repair, bridge painting and maintenance, roadside mowing, litter and carcass removal, and rest stop maintenance. Looking at the maintenance budget from 2012 to 2017 shows the amount allocated remains flat while the number of lane miles to maintain increases. The result is that the annual gap in purchasing power grew to $87 million over that time due to inflation. Projecting to 2022, that gap will grow significantly to $115 million. Establishing future maintenance budgets that keep pace with inflation will ensure KYTC’s ability to provide safe and efficient travel throughout the state. Snow and ice removal is the largest overall maintenance expenditure, and severe winters will defer resources away  from other

routine maintenance activities. Examining snow and ice expenditures versus snowfall over time shows that there is no average Kentucky winter. The budget is most impacted by many small storms, as compared to 1 or 2 large snowfalls.

There are many additional benefits to improving the maintenance budget, including improved response to repairs of potholes, signs, and bridges; better pavement conditions that lead to optimal traffic flow; and longer asset life. Routine care will keep infrastructure updated, with less need for expensive rehabilitation and replacement projects. Public safety issues can be dealt with in a timely manner and there can be fewer construction zones at one time.


Addressing Section 1554 of the 9/11 Act: Motor Carrier Security Sensitive Material Tracking

In response to Section 1554 of the 9/11 Act, Congress directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to analyze TSA’s Truck Security Pilot Program. This was the first and only large-scale test of truck telematics technology. KTC was tasked with evaluating the cost and technology considerations of integrating truck telematics into a hazardous materials security program. The team reviewed telematics products, interviewed leading telematics service providers, and met with Singapore’s homeland security agency to evaluate their hazmat tracking system that was put in place to prevent the weaponization of hazmat shipments.  KTC provided recommendations on how TSA could create an effective tracking program for Tier 1 Highway Security Sensitive Materials (HSSMs). Security threats in the supply chain should be identified early in the process of developing the tracking system. Commercial vehicles should deploy an electronic onboard recorder and a device that allows law enforcement to disable a vehicle in the event of a terrorist threat. The study confirmed that truck telematics technology saves money through efficient routing and scheduling, and that once the system is in place, shipment data should be monitored in a shipment tracking center that is operated by the public sector. TSA also needs the ability to enact a chain of custody response in the event of a security incident.

Inland Waterway Research Initiatives

Since 2010, KTC has investigated ways to improve the operational efficiency of the nation’s inland waterway system. The research team has documented challenges that face infrastructure growth, deepened relationships with stakeholders and transportation agencies, and investigated how the sustainability of large ports can support smaller ports in the network. First, KTC analyzed the current IWS to determine how well it could support an increase in waterbourne commerce. The expansion of the Panama Canal presents opportunities for transportation industries to grow, as long as port infrastructure keeps pace. KTC reviewed and proposed new funding mechanisms that will support updating the aging infrastructure of the IWS. Most notably, KTC has gained an understanding of the financial consequences of lock outages and the role this plays on triggering last-minute modal shifts. The team developed the Inland Waterway Operation Model and Simulation (IWOM), an integrated shipment management system that predicts river conditions and facilitates communication among federal agencies, shippers, and carriers.  The proposed system will not only help shippers with modal transfers, but will bolster the security of moving hazardous cargoes via inland rivers. However, infrastructure improvements add little value to the IWS without the right personnel to run the system. The team has put forth recommendations for education, training, and workforce development, to be sure that IWS jobs will be filled with skilled people. KTC has amassed knowledge on moving commerce through multimodal systems, and stands ready to collaborate with public agencies and private partners on projects that strengthen the IWS. Click Here to learn more

Special Projects & Initiatives

Faculty & Staff

Rachel Catchings, MSCE, PE

Program Manager

(859) 257-7562


Robin Baskette, BS, MA

Technical Writer

(859) 257-7517


Bob Lewis, PE

Research Engineer


Michael Mabe, BFA

Graphic Designer

(859) 257-7532


Chris VanDyke, PhD

Lead Research Scientist

(859) 218-0374


Steve Waddle, MSCE, PE

Research Engineer

(859) 257-6417


Pam Clay-Young, JD

Attorney, Research Associate

(859) 562-2259


Jon Wilcoxson, PE

Research Engineer


Jeff Wolfe, PE

Research Engineer


David Moses, PE

Research Engineer



Accidental releases involving trucks carrying Tier 1 Highway Security Sensitive Materials (HSSMs) are not uncommon. Hazardous materials are routinely left unsecured and are not tracked closely during their shipping route. Therefore, vehicles transporting hazardous materials present an attractive target to terrorists because they can be readily seized and weaponized. KTC developed Fedtrak™, a risk management system for Tier 1 HSSMs, which meets the 9/11 mandate for TSA. As part of Fedtrak, the Dynamic Hazardous Materials Risk Assessment Framework (DHMRA) is a GIS-based environment where hazardous materials shipments are monitored in real time. This solution to improving the safety of Tier 1 HSSMs shipments has been presented to TSA in Lexington.

Click Here to Download the Full Report

Seasonal Tree Cutting Restrictions

Within the state of Kentucky, two species of bats are federally listed as endangered. The summer habitats of the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) are trees, which are often affected by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) projects. To minimize harm to the bats and to reduce the cost of mitigation, restrictions are often imposed that prohibit cutting trees during summer months (April – October). KTC analyzed different tree cutting strategies and studied past construction cost proposals to determine how mitigation costs that would relax tree cutting restrictions have increased overall construction costs and schedule.

Green Infrastructure

The transportation industry recognizes the importance of sustainability in the nation’s infrastructure and as a result, has increased efforts to adopt sustainable policies and practices. Sustainably constructed transportation projects stimulate local economies, increase public involvement, and lessen environmental impacts. KTC analyzed three case studies to determine to what extent sustainable measures were included in the planning, design, and construction of transportation infrastructure projects. FHWA’s INVEST rating system was used as a benchmark for determining if the Cabinet’s past projects and current processes utilize sustainable concepts. The Center was able to show that while there is room for improvement, Kentucky appears to be ahead of the curve on putting sustainability into practice on road construction and road maintenance projects.

Click Here to Download the Full Report

Alternate Technical Concepts

Alternative Technical Concepts, or ATC, is a flexible highway contracting process that enables innovation, reduces project delivery time, and provides cost savings. KTC researchers selected the US-460 Russell Fork project to study the ATC process. This research study was a collaborative effort with two other KTC program areas: Project Development and Construction Engineering and Management. Contractors prequalified by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) attended an informational meeting to learn about the ATC bidding process and were presented with KYTC’s draft project plans, which describe construction of the Pond Creek bridge, building a ramp from KY 80 to the new road, and paving/surfacing requirements. An ecology survey revealed practices that interfere with the habitat of the Big Sandy Crayfish, which changed the letting date.

The ATC process stipulates that contractors receive the information 6 months before the official advertisement during which time a Technical Review committee is organized. A contractor decides where they could provide innovation and technical expertise and at that point, delivers a formal submission of the idea. The ATC is proposed as an alternative to a bid item — this could include design solutions, project specifications, materials, products, or traffic control. A contractor can propose multiple ATCs.

The proposed ATC concept must differ from the base design in the KYTC contract documents, meet the schedule, maintain the project’s purpose and function, and meet all policies and environmental regulations. If the contractor’s ATC is approved, they can submit only one alternative bid as a lump sum item that includes a schedule of values. If KYTC approves a contractor’s ATC but does not award a contract, the contractor is eligible for a stipend. The winning contractor becomes the Engineer of Record and is responsible for all engineering plans. Before the project’s construction phase, KYTC approves all plans. The primary goal of the ATC contracting process is to develop a product equal to or better that what would have been produced by the concept it replaces.