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Components of a roller equipped with Intelligent Compaction. (Photos used with permission from FHWA and MassDOT)

Components of a roller equipped with Intelligent Compaction.
(Photos used with permission from FHWA and MassDOT)

It may not be obvious to drivers on Route 2 or I-95 in Lexington, but some of the construction vehicles at the Route 2/I-95 Bridge Replacement Project site are anything but ordinary. The project is one of three that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is using to demonstrate a state-of-the-art technology known as “intelligent compaction” or IC. Compaction of surface and subsurface materials is an important step in roadway paving and IC is used in the final phase. IC uses a road roller (or roller-compactor) to compress the soil, gravel, or asphalt to create a dense, uniform pavement. Achieving a uniform density is key to long-lasting, high quality roadways.

Onboard, color-coded display showing soil stiffness, which relates to soil strength. Green indicates high stiffness (a more durable roadway), while red indicates low stiffness. (Photos used with permission from FHWA and MassDOT)

Onboard, color-coded display showing soil stiffness, which relates to soil strength. Green indicates high stiffness (a more durable roadway), while red indicates low stiffness.
(Photos used with permission from FHWA and MassDOT)

What makes IC so “intelligent?” IC equips road rollers with an innovative, onboard computer system that provides operators with new tools. The display includes a color-coded map of roller passes, asphalt surface temperatures, and material stiffness measurements. How does this work? The roller drum has an internal accelerometer, a device that detects and monitors the force of the roller pressing on the material. This technology is paired with location data from a GPS device showing the operator the color-coded map in real-time. The display alerts the operator when the desired compaction is reached, eliminating unnecessary passes. It also detects potential problem areas where the roller pattern and number of passes don’t match what was intended.

This smart approach results in the highest quality, durable pavement and an efficient use of MassDOT’s resources. It also reduces future highway maintenance and repair costs because the pavement lasts longer. Site specific data is collected from IC for future analysis and rehabilitation when the roadway reaches the end of its useful lifespan.

In 2013, the Federal Highway Administration selected IC under the newly created Everyday Counts (EDC-2) initiative, with the goal of accelerating the implementation of IC across the nation. In 2014, IC received the NOVA Award, which “honors innovations that have proven to improve construction quality and cost.” Using IC in the Route 2/I-95 Bridge Replacement Project is another example of MassDOT’s use of the most innovative, proven techniques on construction projects in Massachusetts for the benefit of our customers.

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