Civil Engineering Technology Students Study U.S. Route 250 Issues

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Along with industry partners in education, Civil Engineering Technology seniors at Fairmont State University are studying a real-life engineering issue--the earth movement along U.S. Route 250 between Mary Lou Retton Drive and Holbert Road in Fairmont.

As part of the specialized accreditation curriculum requirements set forth by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission, a division of the Accrediting Board for Engineers and Technologists, students are exposed to a semester-long project in the Transportation and Highway Design senior capstone course each year bringing together topics they learned throughout their tenure at FSU. Given the nature of the selected course, a local transportation issue is studied in depth and used as a tool to help the students address the broad versatility of the CET curriculum.

“Bringing practical experience into the classroom is so important for the young engineers of our future, and this year’s Civil Engineering Technology capstone experience is a great example of hands-on learning,” said Tia Como, P.E., Professor of Civil Engineering Technology at FSU. “This year’s project studying U.S. Route 250 is truly an exciting and challenging one for our CET students.”

Key consultants from the West Virginia Division of Highways, Donald (Donny) Williams, P.E., P.S., and Michael Pumphrey, P.E, of research and special studies, have shared their knowledge and expertise throughout the years and have helped to guide the students toward their successful end product. The class is charged with presenting their findings to a group of local professional members from the American Society of Highway Engineers North Central WV Chapter who further critique their work and enhance the intellectual intensity.

Professor Como designed and created this project after continuous improvements of a former planning project and after annotations of the ABET team to further the design component. Upon curriculum revisions, coinciding with the mandated 120 hours of instruction, the CET faculty agreed to launch the capstone with dedicated industrial partners and concurrently place the writing intensive liberal studies requirement within this technical content. The end product is a class written report, technical drawings and an oral presentation. 

In addition to the earth movements witnessed by the general population along U.S. Route 250 that have caused safety concerns and some traffic delays over the past few months, other not so visible issues complicate the situation.

The students are faced with a limited right-of-way (ROW) owned and operated by the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH). Even though the problem is inherently viewed as a WV DOH issue, the ROW only extends 30 feet in each direction from the center line of the road.  Viable options are being researched in addition to addressing the drainage issues and available detour routes. The students are also cataloging the daily traffic, affected businesses and local concerns. This minor arterial highway alignment has obvious limitations as it is situated along a river bank and next to very steep layers of shale bedrock with little overburden and surrounded by vegetation. Being located in the flood plain adds another unique twist to available options in addition to potential disturbance from an abandoned mine site.

Como opted to begin with a current problem facing the WV DOH District #4.

“We wanted to address something that the state could benefit from and so District #4 Manager, Mr. Ray Urse, suggested this site for this year’s study. At the time this communication took place, none of us thought the problem would evolve as it has today,” Como said.  To date six earth movement events have taken place in the U.S. Route 250 area between Mary Lou Retton Drive and Holbert Road since December 2016.

Over the past few years collaboration with the West Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program has afforded the students with the opportunity to collect real-time continuous traffic data via radar recorders. Andrew Morgan, P.E., Program Coordinator, trains the students on using the recorders that provide pertinent data on the number of vehicles, size and speed, permitting Average Daily Traffic values and design vehicle considerations. Kim Carr, Program Coordinator, delivers training on effective presentations. The WV LTAP is housed at West Virginia University and is part of a national organization with a network of 58 centers throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and regional centers serving tribal governments. 

Another stimulating aspect of this year’s project is the inclusion of a Terrestrial Scanning for Mapping by the WVDOH, Engineering Division’s Statewide Survey Crew, headed up by Travis Long and Jesse Bennett, Field Operations Chief. The students were exposed to Terrestrial Scanning technology and techniques for data collection, data analysis and a relatively new CADD science termed Edge Modeling. This process works with the scanning point cloud to produce a three dimensional survey enabling the production of ground cross sections and the study of large topographic footprints not safely assessable via conventional surveying. The Lidar survey is cutting edge and integral to furthering their knowledge on survey techniques that are cost prohibitive for academia.

Also noteworthy are the alliances with other specialized personnel from the WV DOH who share their expertise with the students. Dennis LeRoy covers the states requirements for drawing submissions and this year, given the nature of the problem area. Douglas W. Kirk, P.E., CFM, Hydraulic and Drainage Unit, introduced the class to issues of highways in the floodplain and available tools and mapping to help solve them.

 “Transportation is one facet of Civil Engineering Technology, a dynamic field that’s sure to keep you on your toes because no two projects are alike. I am so pleased to have this opportunity to work with the WV DOH, ASHE NCWV, WV LTAP, industry professionals and the general public, to provide a thought-provoking and incredibly real capstone experience affecting the Fairmont community,” Como said.

The students will present their assessment and design ideas on Tuesday, May 2, at the Bridgeport Conference Center. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m. and the presentation following dinner. Those who plan to attend should RSVP by Friday, April 28, ($20 dinner cost) to Brandon LeRoy, ASHE NCWV President, via e-mail: