Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials

Program Overview

The Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials program area at WTI aims to use progressive research to improve the design and maintenance of rural highway infrastructure.

The nation’s aging transportation infrastructure has received a poor rating in recent reports due to increasing demands and limited resources for maintenance and expansion.  These problems tend to be more acute in rural areas, where the highway or bridge system is the principal (and sometimes only) means of maintaining mobility between remote locations.  Rural transportation agencies need new and innovative solutions to increase the longevity of existing and new infrastructure, and to ensure that new designs are adequate to meet increasing demands.

WTI conducts basic and applied research to address the immediate and long-term construction and maintenance needs of rural highway departments in the following areas:

Program Staff

Eli Cuelho, P.E., has been a Research Engineer at the WTI since 1998 and currently serves as the Program Manager for the Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials program area. He has project experience related to geotechnical engineering, geosynthetic design, pavement design and analysis, ITS technology evaluation and deployment, cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analyses, and remote sensing and data acquisition equipment. Eli has 12 years of experience testing geosynthetic materials and is the chair of an ASTM task group dedicated to developing new test procedures for geosynthetics used as pavement and subgrade reinforcement.  He is also a member of two TRB committees: the Dynamics and Field Testing of Bridges committee and the Geosynthetics committee.

Michelle Akin is a Research Associate at WTI. Michelle began working for WTI as an undergraduate student as part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates NSF program.  After completing her undergraduate degree in Environmental Resources Engineering, she then earned her Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Montana State University and subsequently joined the Western Transportation Institute to conduct full-time research.

Michael Berry, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Professor in the Civil Engineering Department at Montana State University focusing on civil structures. He recently completed his doctoral degree in Structural Mechanics, in which he focused on modeling strategies for concrete bridge columns. Dr. Berry’s research interests include modeling of reinforced concrete columns subjected to seismic loading, damage prediction in reinforced concrete members, and use of recycled materials as cement and aggregate replacements in reinforced concrete.

Robert Mokwa, Ph.D., P.E., is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Montana State University with over 15 years of experience covering a broad range of geotechnical, geo-environmental, transportation, and civil engineering research and design projects.  His research skills were recognized by his award of the President’s College of Engineering Research Excellence Award from his alma mater, Virginia Tech.  He currently teaches classes and conducts research in the area of geotechnical engineering, soil and aggregate materials, frost heave, soil-structure interactions, deep foundations, and site investigative techniques.

Steven Perkins, Ph.D., P.E., is a Professor of Civil Engineering at Montana State University where he teaches and conducts research in the areas of geotechnical and pavement engineering. Dr. Perkins has been involved in the preparation of several synthesis reports for NCHRP and AASHTO on research and practice of geosynthetics in pavements.  He has also helped develop and deliver several short courses and workshops on pavement design with geosynthetics sponsored by industry and agency groups, which were delivered to practicing engineers and departments of transportation.  Dr. Perkins is also an instructor of a National Highway Institute course on geotechnical aspects of pavements. His most recent research has focused on the development of mechanistic-empirical pavement design and analysis methods for geosynthetic reinforced pavements.

Jerry Stephens, Ph.D., P.E., is the Research Director at WTI and a Professor of Civil Engineering at Montana State University where he teaches and conducts research in structural engineering. With over 30 years of experience, Dr. Stephens has studied a variety of transportation issues ranging from the effects of vehicle loads on the deterioration of the highway infrastructure to bridge instrumentation and analysis, to the development of innovative construction materials.  He has been actively involved with various TRB committees and NCHRP project panels.

Contact: 406-994-7886