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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / January 1997

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-SA-97-019
Date: January 1997

Highway Agency Staff Learn the Ropes and Lend a Hand at the South Central Superpave Center

Materials engineers and technicians from highway agencies are signing up for temporary duty at the South Central Superpave Center located in Austin, Texas. This "loaned staff" arrangement benefits both the Center and the highway agencies that are its customers-the Center gains an extra set of hands, and the staffer gains hands-on experience with the Superpave system.

The Superpave Center has already hosted two loaned staffers from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (DOT) and four staffers from the Louisiana Transportation Research Center (LTRC) for short stays of a week or two. The Oklahoma staffers ran the battery of Superpave tests for binders. The LTRC staffers conducted moisture susceptibility tests on a Superpave mix designed for a paving project on Interstate 10 west of Baton Rouge.

"A lot of the work highway agencies expect us to do we can't do without their help," explains Bob McGennis, project manager of the Center. "If, for example, Arkansas wants us to run Superpave performance analysis tests, I'd say sure, as long as they can send some help. In the case of both Oklahoma and Louisiana, the loaned staff have allowed us to accomplish tasks that otherwise wouldn't have gotten done in a timely fashion."

The biggest benefit for State highway agencies is the knowledge and experience their loaned staff take home, McGennis says. "You can't become proficient in Superpave-or anything else-in a week, but the technicians and engineers are provided all the background information they need to go home and become proficient in the Superpave system."

Chris Abadie, one of the four LTRC employees who spent time at the South Central Superpave Center last year, agrees. During their stint at the Center, Abadie and the other LTRC employees got their first hands-on experience with the Superpave mix design process and related materials preparation procedures. "The Superpave Center staff were excellent instructors," he says. "Our time there will help promote the DOT's use of Superpave. We now have people who can train others on the Superpave mix design procedures."

Although the States and the Center recognize the value of the loaned staff arrangement, sending staff to the Center is not always easy for State highway agencies to do, McGennis notes. "Problem number one is that DOTs are in many cases short-staffed, so it's hard to turn people loose. Problem number two is that it's hard for DOTs to put together travel funds for their employees."

High-level support for the loaned staff concept can solve the first problem. McGennis says this support comes from the members of the Superpave Center's management committee, which is made up of the State materials engineers from Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas-the same people who decide whether to send loaned staff. FHWA and the Texas Hot Mix Asphalt Pavement Association also have representatives on the committee.

Texas DOT is trying to find a solution to the second barrier to loaned staff arrangements-travel funds. As part of its aggressive support for the Superpave Center, Texas DOT has proposed a regional funding mechanism for loaned staff support and other expenditures.

FHWA can also help. "Funds are available to cover loaned staff under the Superpave regional centers work orders," says John Bukowski of FHWA's Office of Technology Applications.

The next loaned staffer-an employee of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department-arrives in January for a 1- to 2-week stay devoted to running the Superpave shear test on a mix produced for a project in Arkansas. Texas DOT is sending an engineer on a part-time basis, as well as a full-time technician who will spend 3 months at the Superpave Center and then be replaced by another Texas DOT technician. The Texas Hot Mix Asphalt Pavement Association is also planning to set up a loaned staff rotation arrangement. And the LTRC's Abadie plans to return this spring for training with the Superpave performance analysis procedures.

For more information on the loaned staff arrangement at the South Central Superpave Center, contact Bob McGennis (telephone: 512-475-7912; fax: 512-475-7914; email: bmcgennis@mail.utexas.edu), or visit the Center's Internet home page at http://www.utexas.edu/research/superpave.

For more information on the Superpave regional centers, contact John Bukowski, FHWA (telephone: 202-366-1287; fax: 202-366-7909; email: john.bukowski@fhwa.dot.gov). Information on the centers can also be found in FHWA's new brochure, The Superpave Regional Centers: A Partnership for Better Pavements (Publication No. FHWA-SA-96-082). To request a copy of the brochure, contact Federal Highway Administration R&T Product Distribution Center, HRTM-03 - E-mail: report.center@dot.gov

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