Hwy 60 test, Lodi, Wisconsin


Courtesy of Presto Geosystems

It’s hard to find Civil & Environmental Engineering Professors Craig Benson and Tuncer Edil behind their desks. You have a better chance of locating them on a construction site, actively participating in the task at hand. They prefer to teach through hands-on lessons, like those found in their groundbreaking soil stabilization research efforts.

Benson and Edil are currently involved in two major projects that are resulting in environmentally safe and cost-effective road-bed construction. This summer, they shared the progress and plans for their research. 

The newly paved roads in the Scenic Edge development in Cross Plains were once muddy pathways that made it difficult to move heavy construction machinery. Because the soil was very moist, contractors needed to take extra measures to stabilize the soil under the new streets. Typically, this would call for the wet soil to be removed and replaced with crushed rock—a time consuming and very costly process. In addition, both the removed soil and the replacement rock would be transported through city streets, potentially damaging them. With the help of Benson and Edil, contractors found a much more cost-effective way to handle the problem.

The contractors mixed fly ash, a powdery material that is created when coal is burned for fuel, into the moist soil to form a stiff substance. Because fly ash is a waste product that might be sent to landfills if not used, it’s relatively cheap but also ecologically sound. However, the effect fly ash has on the ground underneath it is unknown. The experiment in Cross Plains will reveal the effect through a lysimeter, an instrument for measuring water percolating through soils and determining the materials dissolved by the water.

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