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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) works closely with state departments of transportation to identify gaps and solutions. Last year, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) worked together to mainstream the A-GaMe method, cone penetration testing (CPT). 

In 2021, MDOT was awarded the annual State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) Excellence Award for their continued success in fostering a resilient culture of innovation in their transportation communities.  

Cone Penetration Testing (CPT): An A-GaME Exploration Technique  

The FHWA’s A-GaME team continuously helps state departments of transportation reach, assist and develop a community of practice. In particular, the team focuses on mainstreaming cone penetration testing (CPT), measurement while drilling (MWD) and seismic and electrical geophysics. 

Advanced geotechnical methods in exploration, or A-GaME, are a set of innovative technologies promoted by the Every Day Counts (EDC-5) initiative under the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). These technologies help assess the potential risk and availability of site characterization as well as optimize subsurface exploration. Use of these innovations result in improved project design and construction.  

Most recently, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) teamed up with the FHWA’s A-GaME team to participate in the cone penetration testing (CPT) user group. The agency’s goal for participating in the partnership was to improve their site characterizations. The cone penetration testing process involves inserting an instrumented cone into the surface at the rate of 2 cm per second and recording data every 2 cm. The cone’s sensors allow the device to record the tip resistance, pore water pressure and sleeve resistance, which can be used to develop soil parameters for planning and construction. 

“The presentation and discussion topics in the group have covered the full range of CPT from planning and performing CPT, collecting good data, interpreting CPT data, and designing with CPT data while using real project experiences,” Erron Peuse of MDOT said. “As a newer CPT user, being involved with the CPT user group has been a way to connect with more experienced users, which has been very helpful for us as we get started using and continue to further develop our CPT program. We have implemented several best practices learned from the group and the topics covered in the group give us confidence in the results that we are getting.” 

Prior to implementing this A-GaME technology, MDOT had little experience with CPT. With that being said, the agency hopes to continue to utilize the technology. The continued use of this will improve MDOT’s site characterization, reduce uncertainties in the subsurface conditions, improve project quality and increase confidence in geotechnical characterization.  

MDOT Recognized for STIC Achievements  

In 2021, the Michigan Department of Transportation was one of two states to receive the 2021 STIC Excellence Award for their success in creating a strong culture of innovation in their transportation communities. Michigan STIC’s (MI-STIC) leadership has helped the agency mainstream multiple innovations and complete local goals and objectives. 

FHWA’s State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) incentive program provides state departments and their partners with resources to foster a culture of innovation and mainstream innovative standard practices in their states.  

 “Both of these STICs have exhibited strong leadership, involvement by diverse groups, innovation in performance tracking, and promotion of innovation implementation,” said FHWA Deputy Administrator, Stephanie Pollack. “We have big challenges on our plate, but the good news is we also have a lot of opportunities to address those challenges, and we have processes and tools in place like STICs to do that.” 

Michigan STIC (MI-STIC) has evolved and is committed to strengthening representation from leadership at all levels of the State’s highway community. MI-STIC has recently expanded to include personnel from Michigan’s asphalt pavement, aggregates, concrete and road preservation associations and Congress.