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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / January 1999

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Date: January 1999

U.S. and Japanese Highway Engineers Hold Seventh Annual Technology Exchange Meeting

Innovation knows no boundaries-and that's why highway engineers from the United States and Japan have been conferring annually for the past 7 years. Both countries are continually seeking new technologies, processes, and ideas for improving highway safety, ride comfort, and pavement durability.

In October, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Paul Teng, Byron Lord, Charlie Churilla, and Max Grogg spent a week in Japan discussing pavements, earthquake repairs, and other subjects with their counterparts at the Japan Public Works Research Institute (PWRI). They were joined by Allan Abbott of the Nebraska Department of Roads and chairman of both the Transportation Research Board Long-Term Pavement Performance Committee and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Standing Committee on Research.

"The objective of the meetings is for each organization to learn of the activities under way by their counterpart and to develop professional relationships to foster technology exchange and cooperation for the future," says Lord.

This year's meeting emphasized pavement technology. Topics included the Superpave mix design system, accelerated pavement testing, truck/pavement interaction, and the use of recycled materials in pavement mixes.

Lord says the PWRI staff was particularly keen on learning more about the Superpave system. "Japan is considering implementing the Superpave system, and the lessons already learned by the States and FHWA will be very useful there," he says.

For Grogg, one of the highlights was the discussions on the use of waste materials in pavements. "We saw that Japan is struggling with many of the same issues that we are. Landfills are filling up, new sites are difficult to find, and highway agencies are being asked to recycle and become 'linear landfills' for some products. They are dealing with the pros and cons, both engineering-wise and environmentally, of incorporating these products in pavements."

The engineers at PWRI provided an indepth tour of their research facilities. The U.S. visitors also toured a tunnel under Tokyo Bay; the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Japan's longest suspension bridge; and highway facilities rebuilt after the earthquake struck the city of Kobe in 1995. Grogg says the projects demonstrated one area where the United States can clearly learn from Japan. "Visitors' centers at the tunnel, bridge, and earthquake sites emphasized the engineering, technology, and labor that went into the projects, essentially telling the public what they got for their money," he says. "Japan does a much better job of marketing engineering and public works."

Next year's meeting will take place in the United States.

For more information, contact either Byron Lord at FHWA (phone: 202-366-1130; fax: 202-366-7909; email: byron.lord@fhwa.dot.gov) or Max Grogg at FHWA (phone: 518-431-4224, x. 223; fax: 518-431-4208; email: max.grogg@fhwa.dot.gov).

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