Gaining Traction with High Friction Surface Treatment

Dramatic, immediate, and economical are three adjectives that traffic safety engineers are using to describe a life-saving pavement application that will be applied in nine locations in Eastern Oklahoma this fall.

In the $1.24 million multi-county safety improvement project, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) hopes to reduce the number of run-off-the-road collisions on curves in six counties: Rogers, Mayes, Sequoyah, LeFlore, Lincoln and Tulsa, by applying an innovative surface treatment that gives drivers more traction on tight curves and in wet conditions.

"This is not a pavement rehabilitation project and our goal is not a pretty looking highway," said ODOT Traffic Engineering Manager Jami Short, referring to the roughened appearance of road sections that have been treated with High Friction Surface Treatment (HFST). "We're establishing more friction at these sites with a goal to save lives."

Roads wind through the Ouachita, Winding Stair and Kiamichi Mountains in LeFlore County, where ODOT Division Two Engineer Anthony Echelle and his team strive to reduce the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities. In 2016, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office recorded 15 fatal crashes in the county.

Oklahoma locations where HFST will be applied in Fall 2018.

[3-D Map currently works in Google Chrome Web browser.]

"We're always ready to bring in anything that will further enhance safety. We have lots of curvy roads and places where using a treatment like HFST can make a difference," said Echelle, who is keen to begin the safety enhancements this fall.

The curve safety project will allow ODOT to install curve advisory signs, LED blinking lights, lowered-speed limit signs, guard rails and HFST along a stretch of US-259 that passes through the Kiamichi Mountains. The project will also benefit drivers in Sequoyah County.

"We've been concerned by the crashes on SH-82 north of the SH-82 and SH-100 junction in Sequoyah County," said ODOT Division One Traffic Engineer Justin Calvarese. "We’re hoping that the HFST provides additional traction so that drivers are less likely to crash at that location."

What is HFST?

High Friction Surface Treatments are pavement-surfacing systems with exceptional skid resistant properties not typically provided by conventional materials. In spots where extra friction is needed, such as steep grades, sharp curves or places that see heavy braking, an epoxy-resin binds a layer of the rough mineral aggregate calcined bauxite to the roadway surface. The treatment creates a durable surface that retains its grip and skid-resistant properties for up to eight years on Oklahoma roads.

The technology was brought to Oklahoma by the State Innovation Council (STIC), a task force that meets quarterly to bring together transportation stakeholders to evaluate innovations and spearhead their deployment in the state. Innovation council members learned of HFST through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) program, which encourages deployment of innovative underutilized innovations that shorten project delivery, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve environmental sustainability.

"Oklahoma's innovation council is a unique opportunity for representatives from transportation agencies, industry and academia to collaborate and pursue innovations that will help deliver a modern and efficient transportation system in our state," said ODOT Director of Capital Programs and STIC Chair Dawn Sullivan.

High Friction Surface Treatment (HFST) in Oklahoma

Oklahoma began using HFST in 2013, when members of the STIC saw an opportunity to address a particularly challenging stretch of roadway on a horizontal curve in northeast Oklahoma with this cost-effective treatment.

“We did a system-wide screening to see where this technology really made sense. A rural two-lane highway near Salina, where we were observing high speeds and run-off-the road crashes, fit the criteria,” said ODOT Traffic Safety Manager David Glabas. “ODOT Division Eight had done everything they could to improve the safety of the highway, including adding rumble strips and oversized chevron signs. During the HFST application process, the neighbors were showing up and thanking us."
“Before high friction surface treatment was applied, we were seeing a high rate of crashes occurring on SH-20 in Mayes County, especially in wet conditions,” noted ODOT Division Eight Maintenance Engineer Trapper Parks.

Two of the original three sites on SH-20 in Mayes County are slated for re-application under the new curve safety plan, which is consistent with anticipated treatment life.

An Oklahoma Success Story By the Numbers

After applying HFST to three curves in Mayes County in 2011-2013, ODOT applied HFST on three high volume roadway sections of I-40 and I-44 in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area in 2015.

As of June 2018, HFST has been applied and reducing crashes at locations in Oklahoma and Mayes counties.

To measure the performance and lifespan of HFST on Oklahoma roads, ODOT Field Services Manager Bryan Cooper conducted visual monitoring of pavement condition at all six HFST sites. Cooper analyzed ODOT skid-friction data and collaborated with Oklahoma State University (OSU) professors Kelvin Wang and Qiang Joshua Li to secure grip data on the sites.

The OSU research team, from left to right, professors Josh Li and Kelvin Wang with Research Engineer Justin Thweatt and Senior Research Scientist Cheng Chen. Photo courtesy Josh Li.

Wang and Li monitor friction grip numbers for departments of transportation in 15 states. The Oklahoma research team provided 3-D imaging and grip numbers on HFST sites in Oklahoma for ODOT.

ODOT Field Services Manager Bryan Cooper presenting data on high friction surface treatment performance at the 2018 Spring meeting of the Oklahoma Traffic Engineers Association in Monkey Island, Okla. More pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/karlajs/albums/72157696829774715
"The crash data is the most important part of this story. The numbers tell it all," said Cooper at his summary presentation of HFST in the May 2018 meeting of the Oklahoma Traffic Engineers Association in Monkey Island, Okla. "HFST does what we need it to do."

ODOT Traffic Safety Engineer Matt Warren analyzed and provided crash data at locations before and after HFST was applied for the project team.

At the treated sites in Mays County, 26 crashes and four severe injuries were observed in the five years before HFST was added. Three years after the treatment, two crashes and zero severe injuries were recorded at the same locations. Projections by Warren estimate HFST will provide a 79% reduction in crashes and 75% reduction severe injuries and fatalities at these locations.
In the OKC Metro area, Warren noted 159 crashes and 8 severe injuries occurred at HFST-locations over the five year period before HFST was applied. In the 1.5 years after application of HFST, 11 crashes with no severe injuries have occurred at the treated locations. Warren noted a projected benefit of 77% reduction in crashes and 69% reduction in severe injuries at the treated locations in Oklahoma City.
“With guardrail and cable barrier, you only mitigate the injury after the crash happens," said Glabas. "When you can’t change the geometry of the road, HFST becomes a very economical solution to prevent crashes.”

To request additional information about the impact of High Friction Surface Treatment and other innovations deployed by the Oklahoma State Innovation Council, contact ODOT State Research Engineer David Ooten (405-521-2671, dooten@odot.org).

Story by Karla Sisco and photos by Amy M. Echo-Hawk

Produced by Tribal Tech for the Oklahoma State Innovation Council with support of a 2017 Innovation Incentive Award, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Tribal Tech is an extension initiative of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) at Oklahoma State University. The initiative explores the compelling stories of the diverse stakeholders transforming transportation in Oklahoma.

Results from the initiative can be experienced at:



Created By
Karla Sisco and Amy M. EchoHawk


Photos by Amy M. Echo-Hawk

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