Road construction projects impact more than the flow of traffic; they also alter the flow of storm water and the sediments transported by this water. The altered volume and rate of storm water run-off due to construction contributes to loss of soils from these work areas. The increased sediment transport ultimately leads to the pollution of our streams, lakes, wetlands, and reservoirs.
To provide the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) with the ability to evaluate and demonstrate erosion control products and methods so these negative effects can be controlled, IDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contracted with the ICT to establish the Erosion Control Research and Training Center (ECRTC) on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. At this center, in controlled conditions representative of those experienced in Illinois, ICT provides hands-on training to demonstrate proper installation and evaluation techniques and facilitates research to assess the applicability of erosion control and best practices for storm water management relevant to IDOT construction site conditions.
Thomas Ripka, IDOT technical review panel chairperson for this project, explains, “IDOT strives to excel in road construction technologies, including storm water management and adopting best management practices for erosion control and sediment containment. This center positions us to continue our advancements in this area of road building.”
Specifically, the new center is equipped with rainfall simulators (sprinklers) and automated water quality samplers and provides a setting to simulate a multitude of conditions typically found along Illinois roadways, highways, and urban settings. This facility provides critical hands-on training in outdoor and indoor classrooms on proper installation and the use and evaluation of erosion and sediment control products.
The lead researcher on the project, UIUC Agricultural and Biological Engineering Professor Prasanta Kalita, explains, “There is a great need to develop innovative erosion control practices, evaluate current practices and products, and provide training to various groups for a sustainable environment.” Kalita envisions the ECRTC as “a sustainable center in Illinois to continuously provide training, demonstration, and education, including new applied research findings, for years to come.” His vision is to make the ECRTC one of the best centers in the country where quality research, demonstration, and education will be provided to state, federal, and other groups who need such training and education.
In late June 2011, the center hosted its first erosion and sediment control workshop that was attended by over 40 transportation professionals. The feedback received proved that the center was on target to provide state-of-the-art knowledge, and the hands on experiences needed to design, build, operate, and maintain our transportation infrastructure in an environmentally responsible manner. The center plans to offer additional workshops in the future. More information about the workshop is posted at: http://ict.illinois.edu/Training/erosion_workshop.aspx.