Beat the Traffic

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Beat the Traffic: A behind-the-scenes look at TxDOT's forensics lab

by Katherine Whaley / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 19, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Chances are, you probably don't care whether a road is made of concrete or asphalt, just as long as it's smooth and pothole free, but there's a science to building a better road.  I went behind the closed doors of a Texas Department of Transportation lab to see how technology is helping you beat the traffic.

Behind the buzz of the dozens of machines, scientists are gathering forensic data.  "We go in and try to investigate what actually happened," Stanny Yin, TxDOT District Lab Engineer told KHOU 11 News.  But they're not investigating a crime, they are inspecting the roadways you drive.  "We are trying to find out how soon the pavement starts to crack with certain amount of force."

Each test has a specific purpose, like a unique machine that analyzes the soil where a future road will be built.  The machine counts how many "blows" or hits a cup of soil can sustian before it liquefies.  "Each soil has different characteristic, just like each person has a different personality," Yin explained.

In another experiment, workers here test a core taken from a freshly-poured concrete.  Engineers measure the amount of force it takes to break the sample, and that tells them how strong the concrete is.

Engineers explain that in Houston, the roads really take a beating, from the sun, wet weather, ("water is the biggest enemy" he says), and a growing number of drivers hitting the road.  "Traffic is not decreasing every day, it is increasing every day."

There are over two dozen TxDOT labs throughout the state, and the Houston District lab is one of the largest.  Its purpose -- help keep drivers safe and build the best roads to help you beat the traffic.

 

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