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UNR Research to Help Improve Highways


College of Engineering
Assistant Professor Elie Hajj shows off some test samples in one of the five pavement testing labs in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. Photo courtesy University of Nevada, Reno.

The Federal Highway Administration has turned to the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) for an update on its formula for fuel consumption and vehicle operating cost predictions. UNR’s Pavements/Materials Program will create a study to aid federal highway managers in more accurately creating data to improve the nation’s transportation network.

“The project is one of the extremely highly critical and influential projects for FHWA and the nation,” said Elie Hajj, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the project’s lead researcher.

“Pretty much on any road on which we drive in Nevada, the pavement – whether asphalt or concrete – has been to some extent influenced by our laboratory,” according to Peter Sebaaly, director of the University’s Western Regional Superpave Center. “We work with government agencies and industry in Nevada and around the West to help determine the best materials and mixtures for economical, durable, and sustainable pavements under every conceivable condition.”

“Savings on vehicle operating costs are a key measure of the effect of improvements of the transportation network,” Hajj wrote in his proposal to the highway agency. “Accordingly, vehicle operating costs equations need to adequately describe the effects of different speeds, traffic conditions, roadway characteristics, and current vehicle technology.”

“Most of our research is for asphalt, which is what 90 percent of the paved roads in the country are made of,” Hajj said. “There are 2.5 million miles of asphalt paved roads, under all types of temperatures, climate, humidity, traffic loads. We help design the best mixture of materials and binders through research in our five labs with all of those specific variables in mind.”

“This grant is an issue that can have immediate effects on the regional and national economy,” Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering, said. “It’s a great accomplishment that shows our Superpave Center is one of the major leaders in this field.”

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