National Hydraulics Research Program
The National Hydraulics Research Program includes the J. Sterling Jones Hydraulics Laboratory at the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. The Office of Infrastructure Research and Development’s Bridge Engineering Research Team (HRDI-40) is responsible for research related to the impacts of flooding on highway infrastructure.
The J. Sterling Jones Hydraulics Laboratory has conducted research on highway hydraulics for more than 30 years. The Laboratory is a state-of-the-art research facility equipped with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling capabilities. The Laboratory’s instrumentation and experimental testing equipment includes a multifunctional flume system, force balance flume, and multiple soil-erosion resistance testing devices that have improved significantly over the past several years. Past research tasks in the laboratory included working on bridge scour, culvert hydraulics and aquatic organism issues, highway drainage concerns, and stream stability problems. The Laboratory has developed design guidelines for bridges that may become submerged in high flood risk areas and guidelines to prevent or combat the effects of scour around bridge foundations.
CFD modeling is conducted through collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory Transportation Research and Analysis Computing Center. This collaboration allows access to high-performance cluster computing. Access to these clusters enables the Hydraulics Laboratory to solve highway hydraulics research problems more efficiently.
Figure 1. The FHWA's J. Sterling Jones Hydraulics Research Laboratory at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.
The Hydraulics Research Program is a part of the National Hydraulics Program and is coordinated with the National Hydraulics Team (NHT), including the Program Office (HQ), FHWA Resource Center, and Federal Lands Offices. The research program studies problems related to the six functional areas that were developed by NHT:
- Hydrology and Extreme Weather
- Highway Drainage
- Culvert Hydraulics
- Bridge Hydraulics
- Scour, Steam Stability, and Scour Protection (Countermeasures)
- Coastal Highways
The Hydraulics Laboratory is divided into seven zones for better laboratory management, maintenance, and capital improvements. The zones include:
- Zone 1 – Multifunctional flume system
- Zone 2 – Force balance flume system
- Zone 3 – In situ scour testing device (ISTD), lab drill rig
- Zone 4 – Lab soil erosion testing devices
- Zone 5 – Particle image velocimetry (PIV), lasers, and cameras
- Zone 6 – Laboratory office and 3D printing
- Zone 7 – Laboratory machine shop
Figure 2. Hydraulics Laboratory zones.
Recent Accomplishments and Contributions
|Publication Title||Publication Number||Year|
|Advanced Methodology to Assess Riprap Rock Stability At Bridge Piers and Abutments||FHWA-HRT-17-054||2017|
|Hydraulic Performance of Shallow Foundations for the Support of Vertical-Wall Bridge Abutments||FHWA-HRT-17-013||2017|
|Updating HEC-18 Pier Scour Equations for Noncohesive Soils||FHWA-HRT-16-045||2016|
|Scour in Cohesive Soils||FHWA-HRT-15-033||2015|
|Fish Passage in Large Culverts with Low Flow||FHWA-HRT-14-064||2014|
|Submerged Flow Bridge Scour Under Clear Water Conditions||FHWA-HRT-12-034||2012|
|Pier Scour in Clear-Water Conditions with Non-Uniform Bed Materials||FHWA-HRT-12-022||2012|
For a complete list of publications produced by the Hydraulics Laboratory, use the Research Publications page.
|FY15/FY16||Scour Study for the Feather River Bridge over the Feather River in Sutter County, California|
|FY15/FY16||Scour Countermeasure Study for the Middle Fork Feather River Bridge over the Middle Fork of the Feather River in Plumas County, California|
|FY15/FY16||MnDOT ADA compliant grate study|
USACE –LA District
|FY15/FY16||Pier Extension and Guide Wall Design Alternatives to Mitigate Local Scour Risk for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad Bridge over the Santa Ana River downstream of Prado Dam in Riverside County, CA|
|FY16||User Guide is to assist HY-8 users in the application of HY-8’s Low Flow capability for identifying zones of lower velocity during low flows in culverts|
|FY16||Improve design methodology for estimating scour in rock for abutments|
USACE – ERDC
|FY17||Design, fabricate and install two instrumentation robotics systems for the USACE/ERDC Cognitive Ecology and Ecohydraulics Laboratory|
|FY17||Soil Sample Erosion Testing for Michigan DOT for M-20 Bridge over the Tittabawsee River|
Western Federal Lands
|FY17||Testing Engineered Log Jams for road side erosion protection for a proposed project next to Hoh River Olympic National Park in Washington State.|
FY: fiscal year; Caltrans: California Department of Transportation; MnDOT: Minnesota Department of Transportation; ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act; USACE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; MD SHA: Maryland State Highway Administration; VDOT: Virginia Department of Transportation; USACE - ERDC: USACE’s Engineer Research and Development Center; MDOT: Michigan Department of Transportation.
In-Situ Scour Testing Device Patent: Patent No.: 9,322,142 (Issue Date: Tuesday, April 26, 2016).
Laboratory Capabilities and Equipment
For detailed explanations of the capabilities and equipment at the J. Sterling Jones Hydraulics Research Laboratory, visit the pages on physical capabilities and numerical modeling. These pages include specifics on the laboratory zones and the Advanced Computing Center.
The Laboratory Services page lists the ongoing research conducted at the J. Sterling Jones Hydraulics Research Laboratory. See this page for brief descriptions of ongoing tasks and their functional research areas.