A University of Texas at Arlington civil engineering professor is leading a $949,000 project with the city of Dallas to evaluate its roads and determine remaining service life.
Ali Abolmaali, chair of the Civil Engineering Department and the Tseng Huang Endowed Professor of structural and applied mechanics, said he and his team will evaluate three test pavement strips in the city of Dallas.
“We’ll take core samples to evaluate the performance of synthetic-fiber-reinforced concrete pavement with steel-reinforced concrete pavement and asphalt concrete pavement systems,” Abolmaali said.
The Center for Structural Engineering Research/Simulation and Pipeline Inspection at UTA has developed a new sustainable concrete composite, known as SYN-FRC, that uses synthetic fiber to reinforce the concrete. It’s highly durable and can resist environmental deterioration for decades. In addition to its durability, Abolmaali said, the composite has shown a very good load-bearing capacity and can be used as an alternative to steel-reinforced concrete.
In this project, a combination of asphalt concrete, SYN-FRC, steel-reinforced concrete and hybrid pavement slabs will be put together in a chessboard pattern, and their operational, structural and material behavior will be monitored for three years.
“We’re hoping this project will yield the city of Dallas a pioneering and cost-effective pavement system for longer service life and with less repair, rehabilitation and traffic interruption,” Abolmaali said.
Ali Hatefi, interim director of the Public Works Department for the city of Dallas, said: “We are very excited about this new initiative that allows the city to explore other alternative material for the pavement of our roadway system that is both more durable and sustainable as compared to the conventional steel-reinforced concrete. This opportunity will also improve the quality of life for Dallas residents, as it is expected to reduce the construction time and therefore minimize the impact on traffic.”
The team will study the performance of those composites under actual traffic load. The length of the study zone is 240 feet and will be constructed at three different locations with low, moderate and high traffic volumes. The city of Dallas will decide where the test zones will be placed.
Vistasp Karbhari and Maria Konsta-Gdoutos, both UTA civil engineering professors, are co-principal investigators on the project.
Abolmaali said the team will use tools such as a scanning electron microscope, a Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and an energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy to determine the material properties of each core sample through its chemical composition.
“Then the team will use a UTA-designed artificial intelligence model to predict the service life of the roads,” Abolmaali said. “We’ll develop a relationship between artificial intelligence predictions and current pavement management information systems. The artificial intelligence-based system will learn as we go from the massive amounts of data the team collects. Ultimately, we’re trying to predict how much additional life is left in a road through these new materials.”
Abolmaali has been developing and researching synthetic-fiber-reinforced concrete for more than a decade.
“Our research has shown that this is a sustainable concrete in which fibers will eliminate and significantly reduce concrete cracking, which—coupled with no corrosion—would introduce a long-lasting pavement with minimal repair and rehabilitation costs,” Abolmaali said. “There are no needs for the time and labor required to lay out the reinforcement. The city of Dallas can open traffic on the newly constructed pavement in as little as one day.”
He has performed similar work in other cities and for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Peter Crouch, dean of the College of Engineering, said Abolmaali’s work on increasing infrastructure service life through novel materials and artificial intelligence is critical in sustainability of the infrastructure system with cost savings for local and state governmental agencies.
“It is essential to make decisions that streamline our processes and save wherever possible,” Crouch said. “What Dr. Abolmaali has done here and in the past helps us deliver infrastructure improvements and projects in more of a sustainable way that ensures a longer, more productive life of those assets.”