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Public Roads - November/December 2014

November/December 2014
Issue No:
Vol. 78 No. 3
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Internet Watch

Simplifying Project Delivery Decisions With GeoTech Tools

by Kate Sullivan

Problematic soil and rock conditions often negatively affect the construction costs, schedules, and long-term structure performance of transportation infrastructure projects. Geoconstruction techniques can help to address those issues with materials and methods to stabilize foundations, retaining walls, and other earthworks. These technologies also have significant potential to achieve some of the objectives of the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2), including rapid renewal of transportation facilities, minimal disruption of traffic, and production of long-lived facilities.

  However, choosing the best geoconstruction technology for transportation systems is a complex endeavor that requires integrating available information with a number of factors specific to the task and the site. This complexity and the lack of a comprehensive system to assess information have resulted in geoconstruction technologies being underutilized by planners and engineers.

To address these issues, the Transportation Research Board’s SHRP2 has developed a Web-based information and guidance system, GeoTech Tools: Geoconstruction Information & Technology Selection Guidance for Geotechnical, Structural, & Pavement Engineers. The system, available at, helps engineering professionals assess critical information on geoconstruction techniques and assists them in deciding which technologies are applicable.

“The system is a comprehensive toolkit of geotechnical information that addresses all phases of decisionmaking to enable transportation projects to be built faster, to be less expensive, and to last longer,” says Scott Anderson, a technical service team manager with the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Resource Center.

Importance of User Involvement

Development of the system began in fall 2009. Eight reviews of the system during development, with input from potential users, led to revisions resulting in a more usable, intuitive system. The first release of the system was in November 2012.

Feedback and contributions from users were a primary objective in the design of the Web site. Even now users are strongly encouraged to submit technical updates or corrections, case histories, cost information, photographs, and references to expand and enhance the site.

A Multitude of User Options

GeoTech Tools enables users to select, design, estimate costs for, and monitor construction of nearly 50 geoconstruction technologies. The home page displays four columns representing components of the system: What’s New, Catalog of Technologies, Technology Selection, and Contribute. On the left side of the page is a list with links to other features of the Web site, such as background on the SHRP2 project, geotechnical design process, a glossary, and other resources.

  The two primary components of the system are the Catalog of Technologies and the Technology Selection System. The catalog page provides a listing of the technologies that are used for four elements of construction: new embankment and roadway construction over unstable soils, roadway and embankment widening, geotechnical pavement components, and working platforms.

  When a user clicks on a specific technology, the Information Technology page appears. This page provides a description of the selected technology, plus links to supporting documents that users can access and download, including fact sheets, photographs, case histories, design guidance, quality control and assurance procedures, and more. Developers analyzed each technology to produce an indepth look at advantages and disadvantages, environmental conditions, and other information.

The other primary system component, the Technology Selection System, helps identify a short list of potential geoconstruction technologies for a user-defined set of project conditions. The Technology Selection page contains both a listing of the technologies sorted by classification and an interactive selection tool. In the classification system, the technologies are grouped into categories (such as Geotechnical Solutions for Earthwork Construction) that enable an experienced engineer to access solutions according to a specific category of problems. The Interactive Selection System uses a list of questions to determine potential geoconstruction technologies for a particular project.

As Matthew DeMarco, a SHRP2 engineer at FHWA, explains: “One of the best features of the GeoTech Tool system is that it was designed for a variety of users. Experienced engineers will benefit from the design, construction, and cost info provided in the Catalog of Technologies. Less experienced engineers and planners will also benefit by using the technology selection part of the system to assess the feasibility of various technologies in addressing project requirements and constraints.”

For more information and to register, visit



Kate Sullivan is a contributing editor for PUBLIC ROADS.