UTA researcher uses recycled plastic to strengthen highways

The edge of pavement along a stretch of Highway 287 near Midlothian is badly cracked, and the highway hillside is slipping away — except in spots where trash is being used to reinforce the pavement.

Drivers speeding down a stretch of Highway 287 near Midlothian are probably blissfully unaware that the edge of the pavement is badly cracked, and that the highway hillside is slipping away.

Except in spots where the slope is being buttressed by garbage.

Sahadat Hossain Ph.d., a UT Arlington civil engineering researcher, explains that hundreds of 10-foot "pins" made from recycled plastic have been jammed into the hillside to stop a problem called "slope failure." Hossain said it's a problem "almost everywhere in Texas."

The plastic-rod stabilization solution originated elsewhere, but Dr. Hossain and his team at UTA re-designed how the pins are deployed, making them effective even in the notoriously shifting soils of Texas.

They've been studying the remedy at the site along Highway 287 for nearly four years now. "It is perfectly working," Dr. Hossain said.

His team only reinforced part of the hillside so they could contrast it with the section where the plastic pins were inserted. The untreated area shows a noticeably steeper dropoff from the original crack in the pavement.

The Texas Department of Transportation is apparently intrigued by the results. It recently awarded Dr. Hossain a million dollar grant to replicate the idea in trouble spots along highways 183 and 360 near Interstate 30.

From there, Dr. Hossain believes the program could go statewide, since the fix usually takes less than a week and costs less than half the price of traditional repairs.

Plus, he boasts, it's a lasting solution because it uses a recycled material that we've learned from landfills lasts a long time when buried in the ground.

E-mail jwheeler@wfaa.com


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