From testing methods to fix and prevent potholes on state roadways to building them with more environmentally friendly materials and lessening their traffic burden using CAV technology, CAIT researchers have been driving advanced engineering solutions into practice here in NJ. A few experts at CAIT were featured by NJBIZ last month in an article on “Engineering Advances.” Read what they had to say below.
Dr. Tom Bennert, Rutgers Asphalt Pavement Laboratory
At CAIT’s Rutgers Asphalt Pavement Laboratory, Dr. Tom Bennert has been investigating the potential use of waste plastics in asphalt mix.
“We work closely with the NJ Department of Transportation, the Turnpike Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and other agencies on asphalt materials and flexible pavement engineering,” Bennert said to NJBIZ, “Our research is aimed at helping to create roads and pavements [that] last longer, are safer, and are manufactured with fewer natural resources by utilizing a greater percentage of recycled materials when appropriate.”
Bennert explained that recycled asphalt and concrete are already part of the typical road construction process. But, adding as little as less than one-half of 1% by weight – with recycled plastic, ground-up waste rubber from discarded tires and slag — can help add traction to and stiffen a road surface. These changes can reduce tire skidding during storms and wet weather and combat buckling and separation, among other potential benefits.
“It looks like a regular road,” he added. “But it performs better and helps to relieve our landfills.”
His team is currently monitoring test sections of roadways paved with recycled waste plastics to see how they perform and hold up, as well as investigate any potential drawbacks.
“For one thing, the plastic-asphalt mix may be prone to more cracking in colder weather,” he said. “Another concern is microplastics, which could be an environmental issue since the tiny bits and pieces may be ingested by smaller wildlife. That’s why we’re closely monitoring these and other projects.”
Dr. Peter Jin, DataCity Smart Mobility Testing Ground
The DataCity Smart Mobility Testing Ground has transformed downtown New Brunswick, NJ, into a living lab for collecting multi-modal smart-mobility data that will help the region improve safety, congestion, and equity across its roadways and the transportation system.
A collaboration between Middlesex County, NJDOT, The City of New Brunswick, Verizon and additional industry partners, DataCity is a 2.4-mile multi-modal corridor between Route 27 to Route 18 in downtown New Brunswick, NJ. The SMTG is equipped with Self-Driving-Grade, high-resolution roadside sensors and computing devices to enable smart mobility services to all travelers on the corridor without the need for expensive on-board units or high-end vehicles.
This project is an investment in innovative Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technology and a source of high-resolution transportation data designed to attract leading public and private sector companies to New Jersey who are interested in testing advanced driving system applications in real-world conditions.
Led by Dr. Peter Jin, an associate professor in Rutgers’ Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a CAIT-affiliated researcher, the project is now developing safety applications based on data collected, such as a Collision Early Warning System for drivers along the corridor.
Not all vehicles have advanced self-driving systems and self-driving cars are expensive, but the SMTG could allow any driver with a smart device to connect and tap into this information. Being able to receive real-time traffic and safety alerts — from pedestrians crossing the street in front of them to another vehicle getting too close — could help improve safety and congestion in the area.
“Our concept, however, is designed to work with any pedestrian or driver who has a cellphone,” Jin explained to NJBIZ. “We first conceptualized the idea in 2019 and, in collaboration with New Brunswick Development Corp. and the City of New Brunswick, we competed in the inaugural New Jersey Economic Development Authority innovation challenge and were among the nine communities selected to develop early concepts of the projects. Since then, the team has received significant funding support from NJ Department of Transportation and Middlesex County to put the ideas into reality.”
His team is also creating “digital twins” of the 2.4-mile corridor to support CAV R&D as well as the development of next-generation safety solutions. To date, the project has received more than $4 million in funding from Middlesex County and NJDOT.
“We hope to develop a working prototype by end of this year,” he added. “If everyone is connected, then everyone can be alerted.”
Dr. Hao Wang, Building Sustainable and Resilient Roadways
Dr. Hao Wang, an associate professor at the university and a CAIT researcher, has been investigating new pavement designs, methods, and more to help make NJ roads and transportation infrastructure more sustainable, resilient, and smarter.
“I have worked on a variety of projects ranging from fundamental to applied research related to transportation infrastructure,” he said to NJBIZ. “From helping our roads achieve longer lasting life considering new climate change risks and minimizing the carbon footprint of construction materials, to studying how we can use infrastructure assets to facilitate adoption of electric vehicles and interface with autonomous vehicles of the future.”
In one recent project with the NJ Department of Transportation, Wang and his team developed a new pothole-repair procedure that applies an innovative pre-heating method using infrared technology to more evenly and efficiently heat the pavement material. It has shown potential to increase the longevity of asphalt-pavement pothole repair materials.
“The data so far shows promising results in mechanical performance of the repaired pavement material when using the preheating approach,” he explained. “If the repair material can perform better and last longer, then it has the potential to last longer on our roadways once put down to fill in a pothole. Our next step is to bring this approach to real-world practice.”
Read the full NJBIZ article here.