MDT encourages innovation in state highway design and construction. Experimental features built under this program are eligible for federal funding participation, which is normally limited to more proven and conventional items. A benefit of this program is that if an experimental feature fails prematurely, the FHWA will financially participate for its repair or replacement. The incorporation of experimental features into construction and maintenance projects allows for a vital field evaluation of new materials, processes, and methods for determining the implementation value based on constructability, cost effectiveness and performance.
An "experimental feature" only needs to meet two criteria to qualify:
- It must have potential benefits to the highway agency or the public.
- MDT personnel must follow up the use of the feature with a documented evaluation of how well it worked.
What is an experimental feature?
The FHWA’s Federal Aid Highway Program Manual Vol. 6, Chap. 4, Sec. 2, Subset. 4 describes an experimental feature as:
"a material, process, method, equipment item, traffic operational device, or other feature that:
- has not been sufficiently tested under actual service conditions to merit acceptance without reservation in normal highway construction, or
- has been accepted but needs to be compared with alternative acceptable features before determining their relative merits and cost effectiveness."
This broad definition shows that a wide variety of approaches or products can qualify for the program. Current MDT experimental features include new technologies like electrified wildlife deterrent mats and diamond grind road smoothing. Other active features are comparisons of products such as a chip seal emulsion comparison of CHFRS-2P versus CRS-2P and Crafco Mastic One versus standard crack sealant.
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