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In May 2020, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) added monitoring instruments to their drill rigs to capture real-time data of drilling parameters. The agency’s expertise with Measurement While Drilling was featured in FHWA’s A-GaME webinar series. 

Additionally, MDT was recognized in 2021 for enhancing several miles of U.S. Highway 89. Using proven countermeasures under the FoRRRwD initiative, the agency improved roadway safety and reduced the risk of lane departures. 

Measurement While Drilling enhances MDT’s drilling process 

Using a combination of research and program delivery projects, MDT added Measurement While Drilling (MWD) technology to their standard drill rigs. Measurement While Drilling (MWD), an A-GaME geotechnical method, is a site exploration technique that allows for continuous monitoring during geotechnical drilling operations. Standard drill rigs are enhanced with instrumentation to provide real-time and continuous data of drilling parameters.  

During the process, the data collected produces profiles of drilling parameters to unveil soil layers and additional subsurface characteristics. These profiles gauge material properties and strength evaluations of soil and rock, ultimately reducing the number of physical samples needed.  

MDT’s proficient use and knowledge of this technology is showcased in FHWA’s A-GaME webinar, The Digital Drill Rig. The webinar features a case study of Montana’s MWD implementation. 

In the presentation, MDT Geotechnical Engineer Nick Jaymes provides an overview of the agency’s initial use of the technology on their CME 1050 ATV drill rig. Jaymes shares the challenges encountered during the preliminary sensor installation and usage process, and how the agency addressed those issues. He also goes on to discuss the technology’s benefits and limitations as well as the agency’s plans to continue using MWD during the pilot program.  

MDT implements FoRRRwD solutions to save lives 

MDT enhanced 5.8 miles of U.S. Highway 89 to improve roadway safety and reduce the potential for collisions. Paved in 1927, Highway 89 west of Browning, MT is one of the main entrances to Glacier National Park and a major source of tourist traffic. However, prior to the agency’s improvement, the road was too narrow and contained sharp curves that increased the risk of roadway departures.  

To increase the safety of this stretch of the highway, the agency implemented Focus on Reducing Rural Roadway Departures (FoRRRwD) solutions. The FoRRRwD initiative encourages transportation agencies to address roadway departures on all public roads. 

Using proven countermeasures, one of the four pillars of FoRRRwD, such as edge line rumble strips and wider shoulders, the agency reconstructed 21 curves on U.S. 89. These cost-effective solutions were used to reduce the number of lane departures and minimize the severity of possible collisions.