September 2017 Catalyst

September 2017
Keeping Minnesota’s roadsides green is about more than just aesthetics—healthy turfgrass can improve water quality, reduce erosion and road noise, and provide animal habitat. However, harsh conditions such as heat, drought, and salt use can make it difficult for roadside turfgrass to thrive. In a previous project, University of Minnesota researchers identified a new salt-tolerant turfgrass mixture for use on Minnesota roadsides. Now, the team has developed best management practices for installing and establishing this type of turfgrass in a project funded by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.
To reduce congestion, MnDOT began a major set of improvements in 2009 on the Twin Cities’ highly traveled I-35W corridor between the Minnesota River and I-94. Among the improvements was the addition of a priced dynamic shoulder lane (PDSL) on parts of the 17-mile stretch of highway. Following the opening of these improvements, however, the frequency of rear-end crashes increased in certain sections—especially in the PDSL regions. To untangle the underlying causes of this increase, MnDOT enlisted the help of U of M researchers.
The U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory has received a 2017 Research Infrastructure Investment Program award of just over $186,000 from the U’s Office of the Vice President for Research. The lab is a facility of the Department of Mechanical Engineering that conducts research to collect, analyze, and understand driver behavior generated during driving simulation studies and field tests of enhanced human-machine interfaces designed to reduce risky driving behaviors. The lab houses two advanced driving simulators, which together host most of its research experiments. Funds from the award will be used to overhaul components of both simulators.
This summer, civil engineering undergrads put what they’ve learned in the classroom to work in a professional environment as part of the 10-week Summer Transportation Internship Program. Working in a variety of offices at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, interns gained hands-on experience in roadway engineering, bridge design, roadside vegetation and erosion control, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and more.
Publication Credits 

Publisher/Director: Laurie McGinnis

Catalyst Editors: Pamela Snopl, Christine Anderson

Contributing Editors: Amy Friebe, Michael McCarthy

Designer: Angela Kronebusch

Freelance Writer: Megan Tsai

Web Team: Gregory Romero, Nathan Rockershousen