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Public Roads - Winter 2024

Date:
Winter 2024
Issue No:
Vol. 87 No. 4
Publication Number:
FHWA-HRT-24-002

Innovation Corner

Geosynthetics Mobile Application for Use on Road Construction and Maintenance Projects

by Trinette Ballard
A drainage trench with a geotextile filter lining, drainage rock, and corrugated pipe on a construction site. Image Source: FHWA.
The installation of a drainage trench using a needle-punched nonwoven geotextile lining with drainage rock and a perforated collector pipe.

Geosynthetics Mobile Application for Use on Road Construction and Maintenance Projects

Geosynthetics are artificial polymer materials used to improve soil conditions. For the transportation industry, using geosynthetic materials like geogrids, geotextiles, geocells, and erosion control materials is important for extending the life of a roadway and improving safety. In addition to roadways, geosynthetics are used with retaining structures, slopes, and barriers. These materials assist with controlling water flow, stabilizing dirt, reinforcing soil supporting structures, and creating barriers to protect layers of other materials from moisture. Using geosynthetic materials on projects must be applied correctly, or they will not work as intended. Therefore, project managers working with this material need access to information that will assist with the field installation of geosynthetic materials.

The geosynthetic industry approached the Federal Highway Administration about developing a manual that personnel can use in the field. The original plan was to create six pocket guides that project managers could carry onsite as a reference. Instead, FHWA turned to technology to revolutionize working with geosynthetics through the development of the Geosynthetics Field Installation Notes Tracker Mobile Application. This new app is also FHWA’s latest effort to become more environmentally sustainable by eliminating the use of paper when visiting road construction and maintenance projects; it also provides quick and easy access to information.

An advertisement with an image of two hands holding a smartphone with the geosynthetics mobile app opened on its screen. To the right of the hands is “Download Now.” A description above the image reads, “New geosynthetics installation mobile app.” Image Source: FHWA.
The app, released in early 2023, is available free of charge through several app stores.


Joe Conway, director of FHWA’s Office of Innovation and Workforce Solutions’ Local Aid Support team, says, “We are constantly pushing the use of innovative solutions to State, local, and Tribal agencies. The mobile app presented us with an opportunity to do the same.”

The app was published in early 2023 in both the Google Play and Apple Store—free of charge—and is already approaching 2,000 downloads. “The excitement we are seeing around the new mobile app is refreshing. We encourage anyone utilizing geosynthetics on road projects to download the app,” says Daniel Alzamora, senior geotechnical engineer in FHWA’s Resource Center.

The mobile app features a step-by-step guide detailing the basics of geosynthetics and how they are used in highway construction, from selection and installation to maintenance and repair. “Although the appropriate design of geosynthetics is important to performance, the selection of a geosynthetic that meets the design intent and the installation of these materials is also key to achieving the expected performance. This app provides users with information on the various types of products and installation procedures for different applications to help users be successful when utilizing geosynthetics,” says Alzamora. With the mobile app, users can also, in real time, log field notes, bookmark content, search keywords, and quickly access industry terms and definitions.

An illustration of a winding two-lane roadway through a field of grass. Nine map location symbols along the roadway correspond to the nine types of geosynthetics: geogrids; geosynthetic clay liners; geocomposites; geofoam; geotextiles; geomembranes; geonets; and geocells. Image Source: FHWA.
The Geosynthetics Field Installation Mobile Application features information to extend the life of pavement, improve safety, and mitigate erosion control through nine primary functions or types of geosynthetics.


The Geosynthetics Materials Association (GMA), in essence, works to expand the geosynthetics market. The organization provides a network to exchange information, solve common problems, and develop mutually beneficial relationships. Since they liked the idea of a mobile app to assist project managers with properly installing geosynthetic materials, GMA partnered with FHWA to provide applicable images and review its content. Fred Chuck, the executive director of GMA, has also been assisting FHWA with getting the word out about the new app and encouraging its use. “The engineers, agencies, contractors, and others involved in transportation projects will greatly benefit from the ease of access to information on geosynthetic products and applications. Additionally, use of the app will expand knowledge of the benefits, making geosynthetics more acceptable on transportation projects,” continues Chuck. “The mobile application can serve as a framework for future mobile application projects in FHWA. We have already received several calls from other offices expressing an interest,” says Conway.

For more information on the geosynthetics mobile app, visit: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/clas/geosynthetics/. To view a video on how the mobile app works, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr-gRj_LIbw.

Trinette Ballard is a Local Aid Support program manager in the Office of Transportation Innovation and Workforce Solutions and has been with FHWA for 16 years.