The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 50-01 [Active (Synthesis)]

Advancements in Use of Geophysical Methods for Transportation Projects
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Research Agency: University of Missouri
Effective Date: 9/20/2018
Fiscal Year: 2018

Final Scope

In 2006, the National Academies published NCHRP Synthesis 357:  Use of Geophysics for Transportation Projects, which identified benefits and challenges of using geophysical methods in transportation. Some of the obstacles identified by the study were recognizing appropriate applications and conditions, defining the investigation’s scope, obtaining adequate data, and objective interpretation by qualified professionals. Issues that the study identified included improving education and training, as well as the need for standards and training resources. Since publication of this Synthesis, however, there have been improvements with the hardware and software used for geophysical methods and techniques.    


The purpose of this synthesis is to provide an updated matrix of geophysical techniques for each application, as well as to provide background and training resources for geophysical methods that have consistently yielded quantifiable value through improvements to design efficiencies and reductions in construction risks. The synthesis should assess changes in the state of practice since publication of Synthesis 357 and include downhole methods and developing technologies. The synthesis would help identify the available tools and how the agencies can overcome obstacles to utilization.


The report should include the following (not an exhaustive list):

·        Summary of results of 357

·        Changes in practice since information was gathered for Synthesis 357

o   Reasons for changes in practice

o   Improvements achieved in practice

·        Updated matrix including downhole methods and developing technologies

·        Resources needed by states to apply technologies (e.g. training, budget, personnel, contracting services, regional resources)

·        Highlight knowledge gaps and recommendations for future research


Information will be gathered by literature review which identifies the most relevant examples, techniques and conditions under which consistent results are achieved. Surveys and/or interviews of the state DOTs and Canadian provinces and a minimum of five case examples shall be included. Case examples should focus on:

·        diverse environments

·        highlighting different techniques and applications

·        current effective practices

·        reliability and correlation with other subsurface exploration methods

·        Value added ( cost and schedule)


Information Sources:


FHWA Federal Lands Highway Divisions; USACE

NCHRP Synthesis 357 – Use of Geophysics for Transportation Projects (2006)

NCHRP Synthesis 484 – Influence of Geotechnical Investigation and Subsurface Conditions on Claims, Change Orders and Cost Overruns (2016)

TRB Staff
Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Phone: 202-334-2361
Email: mgarciacolberg@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: 9/20/2018, Washington, DC
Teleconference with Consultant: 10/3/2018
Second Panel: June 26, 2019

Panel Members

Adebola Adelakun, Georgia DOT

Asif Ahmed, University of Texas - Arlington

Ani Carignan, South Carolina DOT

Nabil Hourani, HNTB Corporation

Nathan T. Moore, Maryland State Highway Administration

William P. Owen, California DOT

Jason Richter, Minnesota DOT

Benjamin S. Rivers, Federal Highway Administration


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