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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - November/December 2003

Training Update

How Does Water Cross The Road?

When designing roads, engineers must consider the project's proximity to streams, lakes, wetlands, oceans, and other permanent and seasonal water bodies. Understanding how water gets from one side of the road to the other is at the heart of the curriculum for a new course offered by the National Highway Institute (NHI) at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Introduction to Highway Hydraulics Software (#135081A) introduces engineers and roadway designers to state-of-the-practice software and technologies available for designing appropriately sized, cost-effective bridges and culverts.

"The bigger they are, the more they cost," says Larry Arneson, senior hydraulics engineer at FHWA's Resource Center in Lakewood, CO. "Our goal for the course is to offer an overview of the different computational tools available to hydrologic and hydraulic engineers to help them build the safest and most cost-effective structures."

Participants will learn from hands-on experience in selecting and applying software tools in the design of drainage facilities and hydraulic structures. The course focuses on estimating peak lows and hydrographs, performing hydraulic analyses of culverts and storm drain analyses, designing detention ponds, and assessing channel hydraulics. In particular, attendees will be able to input data into specific hydraulic software tools, such as the Watershed Modeling System, and then interpret and apply the results.

The course focuses on practical analysis and design skills through a variety of exercises, including the use of a typical watershed as a case study. Participants apply theoretical and practical knowledge to the case study and learn from examples that easily relate to their day-to-day work. The course is intended for highway engineers and designers who are responsible for the hydrologic and hydraulic aspects of designing storm drains, culverts, detention basins, and channels. Participants should have an overall knowledge of hydrology and hydraulics.

Upon completing the course, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Choose appropriate software for various design situations
  • Identify the data needs for software applications
  • Input data into the software tools and interpret the results
  • Apply appropriate hydraulic tools to designing drainage facilities and hydraulic structures

The course will be available by late 2003 or early 2004. Parties interested in sponsoring the 3-day course must have access to a computer classroom. The class size is limited to 24 participants. For technical information regarding the Introduction to Highway Hydraulics Software course, contact Joe Krolak at 202-366-4611 or To learn more about transportation-related training courses available from NHI, consult the course catalog at or contact NHI at 4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22203; 703-235-0500 (phone); or 703-235-0593 (fax). For scheduling, contact Danielle Mathis-Lee at 703-235-0528 or