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Mizzou Engineering technology wins national association backing

A national transportation association plans to showcase Mizzou Engineering technology for stabilizing landslide–prone slopes, paving the way for its widespread use across the country.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), a nonprofit group representing U.S. highway and state transportation departments, has decided to nationally feature a slope stabilization method developed by MU civil engineering Professors Erik Loehr and John Bowders. The AASHTO Technology Implementation Group, which annually selects four or five technologies to spotlight, this year selected Mizzou’s technology from a field of 40 nominations.

“This selection points out that there can be great value from long-term research performed in Missouri,” said Mark Virkler, professor and chair of MU’s civil engineering department. “The research project has already shown benefits in Missouri.  The promotion effort provided by AASHTO makes it more likely that the benefits will be seen all around the country.”

Loehr and Bowders, both professional engineers, in 1998 devised a new way to shore up shaky roadside slopes using pins made of recycled plastic. The pins—inserted every three to six feet, depending on the soil—prevent “nuisance” landslides by intercepting and providing additional resistance in slide–prone soil, Bowders said.

Mizzou’s technology stood out in part because it uses long–lasting, recycled materials, said Keith Platte, AASHTO program manager.

“I think this is a good way to use recycled materials in a new and different way,” he said.

Platte said AASHTO plans to produce and distribute information about this technology to department of transportations across the country within the next three months.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) already has tested the technology on interstate embankments, and found the pins successfully prevented slides at a lower cost than more traditional techniques, a 2005 MoDOT report said.

AASHTO’s backing may well persuade other states to take a close look at the technique.

“Once AASHTO gets a look at it, then other states have a sort of confidence level in it,” Bowders said. “It legitimizes it.”