We are dedicated to promoting state-of-the-practice applied research and providing innovative solutions to transportation challenges in traffic safety, aging infrastructure, sustainability, and climate resiliency. We serve our state best when we serve our nation well.


Dr. Hao Yin, P.E., PMP. Research Bureau Chief

7500B Pan American Freeway NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109


Research Bureau Team
Mariana Santiesteban
Office Administrator
Angelo Armijo
Project Manager
Shannon Vigil
Project Manager
Active Research Projects

R919030 – UHPC (Phase-V) Thin-Bonded Overlay on Deteriorated Bridge Decks
Typical concrete overlay materials for existing bridge decks include latex-modified concrete, low slump dense concrete, and polyester polymer concrete. Polyester polymer concrete overlays are currently the most popular choice in New Mexico. However, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) has observed that polyester polymer concrete overlays are expensive and often need rehabilitation in just a few years.

Previous research has demonstrated that ultra high-performance concrete (UHPC) has the potential to increase service lives of bridge deck overlays and subsequently, the underlying concrete deck, because it has exceptional durability properties and contains silica fume that facilitates bond to substrate concretes. This research project will document, monitor, and assess the field implementation of a UHPC overlay produced with local materials on New Mexico Bridge #9706 in Socorro, NM. This will be the first non-proprietary UHPC overlay constructed in the United States.

R920040 – Study & Evaluation of Materials Response in HMA Based on Field Instrumentation Phase III
Significant changes in layer properties occur as a result of change in seasons, which dictates the stress-strain responses of pavement layers under variable field traffic loading. Collection and analysis of data from properly instrumented pavement test sections is crucial to know these strain levels to be used by the pavement designers and for understanding the actual behavior of NMDOT pavements, and hence to test the pavement materials, and model NMDOT pavement performance in the most appropriate way. Also, pavement instrumentation and in-situ testing can used to measure the impacts on overloaded truck traffic on pavement sections.
The main goal of this study is to understand the mechanisms that cause pavement failure under actual traffic loading and environmental conditions in New Mexico.  The main objective is to measure strains, stresses, deflections, moisture, and temperature to facilitate the validation of suitable response models for New Mexico pavements and thus enhancing the effectiveness or reliability of the pavement design methods.
Continued from previous phases, the main objective of Phase III research is to collect and analyze long-term field instrumentation data, including stress-strain, traffic, materials, weather, and performance, which can be used for calibration and validation of the AASHTOWare Pavement ME Design.

R920050 – Determining Effectiveness of Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Mitigation Projects Phase II
The research is aimed at estimating passage rates or relative use of crossing structures for large mammals and identify other wildlife species using crossings at constructed and planned wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation projects for a 2-3year period. In instances where fencing will be constructed during the study, we will compare use of crossing structures over time to evaluate the effectiveness of the fencing.
The specific objectives of this study are to:

  • Compare wildlife passage rates or relative use of crossings with studies done in other western states.
  • Identify infrastructure shortcomings or other factors that contribute to low passage rates or low relative use rates.
  • Collate and review wildlife-vehicle collision and carcass collection data to determine the effectiveness of constructed projects in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions, or at least document baseline wildlife-vehicle collision rates for planned projects.
  • Create a guide for designing effective wildlife crossings and for improving existing drainage structures for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), elk (Cervus elaphus), black bear (Ursus americanus) and Mountain lion (Puma concolor).

R922030 – Solution to Interfacial Delamination of NMDOT’s Asphalt Pavements
To find a solution to delamination issues of New Mexico pavements, the project was initiated to identify and evaluate the following factors:

  • Debonding of the tack coat from the top or bottom layer: due to poor interlayer bond caused by dissimilar material systems, improper choice of tack coat (type), lack of tack or application rate, inadequate or excessive breaking and curing of tack coat. It is worthwhile to mention here that the Department does not have acceptance or performance tests for tack coats.
  • Failure within the layer: traffic- and pavement design related causes (e.g., slippage between layers due to heavy traffic, unstable or poor mix, excessive cyclic stresses at the interface of two layers)
  • Damage and fracture within the interface or tack coat layer: caused by seepage of water through the surface layer, improper compaction, aging, and mismatch in thermal expansion and contraction between two layers and/or interface tack layer due to seasonal change in temperature.

R922040 – Develop a Balanced Asphalt Mixture Design Procedure
The NMDOT uses the Superpave method to design asphalt mixes which have shown poor cracking performance, although rutting performance is favorable. In a balanced mix design (BMD) approach, an asphalt mix will be designed to balance these two distresses; it will allow more rutting within a reasonable amount and reduce the long-term cracking.
The goal of this research is to develop a balanced mix design procedure, not only  considering traffic and weather conditions of a region, but also  performance driven rutting and cracking criteria.
The development of a step-by-step BMD procedure (mix volumetrics) will include multiple mix type (e.g., HMA and WMA), different performance grade (PG) binder content, aggregate gradation and type, and aging conditions.

R922050 – Conduct a Friction Testing Program, Data Analysis and Effectiveness of the NMDOT Open Grade Friction Course Program
The NMDOT conducts friction testing year-round on all state-owned roads and collected data are stored in database. There is a lack of guidance on what new roads should test at for open-graded friction course (OGFC), concrete, or chip seal, or any correlation with traffic safety, smoothness, or resurfacing criteria. Findings from this friction data focused research will be applied to pre- and post- OGFC, to determine if the friction courses are effective.

R922060 – Dust Mitigation Monitoring Project Phase II
NM DOT HSIP Dust Mitigation Projects. Since 2015, the New Mexico Department of Transportation has programmed $2.5 million in Highway Safety Improvement Program {HSIP) funds for dust mitigation activities at the Lordsburg Playa on both sides of I-10. In 2018, dust mitigation efforts in the Southern Playa {Road Forks) area were initiated including livestock exclusion, keyline plowing, printing, seeding, tackifier, and fencing. In 2020 and 2021, dust mitigation efforts in the Northern Playa area were initiated including livestock exclusion, channel/erosion control, keyline plowing, printing, seeding, tackifier and fencing. The objective of Phase II study is to determine the effectiveness of land use interventions on mitigating blowing dust and the frequency of dust-related traffic crashes

R922070 – Countermeasures to Improve Pedestrian Safety on Arterials
This project explores the most effective countermeasures to reduce pedestrian fatalities on arterial streets, using Central Avenue in Albuquerque – a pedestrian fatality hot spot – as a case study and extrapolate those results to other locations, allowing for results to not only improve traffic safety in Albuquerque, but in other municipalities across the state, region, and country. The research focuses on pedestrian safety but also addresses traffic safety outcomes for motor vehicle users and bicyclists. The treatments to be explored include a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, high intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) beacons, turning restrictions, leading pedestrian intervals and road diets.

R923020 – Augmented Reality for Highway Bridge Element Inspection

Condition assessment for bridges is a methodical task which requires substantial time, attention to detail, and precise documentation. As such, a single bridge inspection requires several hours of lane closures and multiple trained personnel to complete. Importantly, the recent transition to element level condition ratings has increased the details necessary to compile bridge inspection reports. While allowing more effective evaluation of bridge deterioration and prioritization of maintenance tasks, this has also increased the time and effort required from inspectors. It has also led to less consistency in how information is documented by bridge inspectors. These challenges present an opportunity for NMDOT (and other agencies) to leverage augmented reality (AR) techniques to assist in specific inspection tasks and reduce the cognitive load on inspectors, helping them to execute faster while maintaining high performance. As bridge inspection guidelines continue to evolve, AR can also provide a platform to quickly integrate new automated inspection technology and changing requirements into the workflow.

Specifically, NMDOT is expecting the following from AR research to:

  • Facilitate routine tasks accelerating the inspection process and reducing mental fatigue.
  • Provide heads-up access to relevant element and defect codes from the AASHTO manual.
  • Produce historical overlays of previous inspections, thus allowing better judgements on the progression of deterioration.
  • Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically label and measure defects (with a focus on concrete cracking and spalling), thus automating the generation of condition reports and well as providing additional insights. Importantly, the development of the AR interface will follow a user-centered design strategy to ensure that the interface is easy to use, easy to train for, and inspectors can interact with AI elements in order to ensure consistent performance.

R923030 – Chip Seal for Uniform Usages

Chip seals are one of the most popular pavement preservation treatments for asphalt pavements due to their ability to seal the existing road surface from moisture damage and oxidation, improve skid resistance, seal minor racks, and delay deterioration. They consist of a uniform spray application of an asphalt binder followed by a uniform application of aggregate coat cover which is then rolled with pneumatic tire rollers to achieve the desired embedment. This simple process can be conducted using local maintenance personnel with minimal equipment requirements, making it a cost-effective option.

NMDOT has not adopted a specific chip seal design procedure, and rather each district has independent methods to determine the material application rates, generally based on experience. The materials used vary throughout the state based on local availability. Recently, the use of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) as chip seal aggregate has been adopted as an alternative to virgin aggregate due to the sustainability benefits associated with it.

The objectives of or this research are to:

  • Evaluate current NMDOT chip seal practices across the state of New Mexico, specifically materials and application rates. Assess the impact of these practices and/or factors on the performance based on available PMS database.
  • Develop a chip seal design procedure, addressing both local materials and geographic conditions across the state of New Mexico.
  • Develop statewide chip seal construction specifications.
  • Develop project selection criteria for NMDOT to obtain optimum performance and treatment life from chip seal applications, such as skid resistance and minimum chip loss.


R923040 – GEOSYSTEMS Green Infrastructure

The objective of the research is to address future climate change and resiliency issues and mitigate the impacts to NMDOT’s rights-of-way by identifying areas where special environmental consideration and treatments should be considered.

This project will help the Environmental Bureau identify the areas where projects will have the most beneficial impact and will help NMDOT identify areas that should receive special consideration due to their environmental assets, such as habitat for endangered species, wildlife corridors, impaired rivers, areas with high biodiversity, etc.

Anticipated Benefits

  • Protect NMDOT’s assets by addressing erosion and sediment deposition threats to existing infrastructure.
  • Improve water quality by managing stormwater runoff.
  • Decrease habitat fragmentation through ecological restoration and revegetation.
  • Aid and protect numerous wildlife species including species such as pollinating insects and birds by planting and protecting pollinator habitat.
  • Improve safety by reducing collisions with wildlife in important wildlife corridor areas.
  • Improve air quality by capturing greenhouse gasses with an increase vegetative cover.
  • Help identify wetland banking sites significant enough to address NMDOT future needs.

R923050 – Polymer Concrete Joints for Precast Bridge Elements

The overall objective of this project is to equip the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) with the science and tools towards implementing a polymer concrete alternative solution for field joints of precast bridge members for accelerated construction.

There is a growing interest nowadays to find other alternatives and choices for bridge deck and ABC connections. Among potential candidate materials, the polymer concrete (PC) mixes stand out as an exceptional option for many reasons. PC can be sourced locally using more common and available materials and does not need to be proprietary, unlike UHPC that needs special additives and admixtures blends as well as steel fibers (which can be sometimes challenging to domestically source). PC provides much better mechanical properties (e.g., sustained tensile strength, superior bond behavior, high shear strength, etc.), durability, and flowability when compared to conventional concrete or standard grouts.

The polymer concrete alternative is to be comparable to what the NMDOT has recently implemented using ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) solutions. The NMDOT will leverage several years of research at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) in the area of polymer concrete and non-proprietary UHPC mix development and applications for accelerated bridge construction (ABC). UNR hosts world-class structural and large-scale testing facilities, as well as the materials laboratories under the Western Regional Superpave Center, to conduct a comprehensive experimental program that support the implementation tools that NMDOT requires.

R923070 – UAS Platform and Personnel Development and Preparation through Lab and Site Testing

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the use of UAVs for bridge inspections. Traditional visual inspection methods are expensive, time-consuming, and inefficient. UAS offers several advantages over visual inspection, such as the ability to fly close to inaccessible bridge locations, capture high-quality images using high-resolution cameras, and reduce labor costs. These benefits demonstrate the considerable potential of UAS for bridge inspection.

This research project aims to enhance the current bridge inspection practices in New Mexico State and achieve technology transfer purpose. The benefits to initialize the UAS-based bridge inspection in New Mexico States are tremendous, including but not limited to:

  • Inspection efficiency improvement: Comparing to point-by-point manual data collection, UAS-based inspections provide a more efficient solution to field data acquisition.
  • Cost savings: Efficient data collection process will significantly save cost due to lower labor allocation requests (mainly pilots and assistance), shorter period of traffic closures, and neglectable cost for hard-to-access locations (no requirement for scaffolding and crane).
  • Safety improvement: UAS-based inspections provide a viable solution to avoid working at heights/traffic for inspectors and further improvement to safety.
  • Fast and objective data interpretation: Advanced algorithms will provide the opportunity for automated data interpretation in a timely way. Development of easy-to-use software will enable simplified implementation of automated data interpretation algorithms.
  • Inspection frequency acceleration: With the development of efficient and cost-effective UAS-based bridge inspection program, the inspection frequency could be increased to further improve the overall transportation infrastructure safety.


Final Research Reports


Infrastructure Inspection

Pedestrian Safety

Dust Storm

Bridge Preservation

Wildlife Vehicle Collision

Accelerated Bridge Construction

Concrete Materials

Asphalt Pavement


Summer 2023

Drone Flight Bridge Inspection Demo

The Research Bureau recently participated in a demonstration of drone flight bridge inspection, conducted by NMSU research team. Innovation based automated bridge inspections will assist the NMDOT in reducing current challenges such as intensive labor and access issues, traffic closures, and data interpretation.

Mountain View Middle School-Rio Rancho, NM participates with AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions Program

On July 12-13, 2023, Mountain View Middle School-Rio Rancho, NM, participated in a 2-day training conducted by educators of the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). MVMS is partnering with NMDOT to implement the AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions (ASOS) program at their school beginning this year. AASHTO educators, Cindy Steven-Pheal, 6th grade gifted teacher and Connie Gusmus, 7th grade science teacher lead MVMS teachers, Jimmy Marez, Julie Evans, and Christopher Tafoya in one of the many STEM activities provided with this program. Pictured, MVMS teachers participate in the Growing Crystals activity. This activity focuses on measurement, evaporation, scientific inquiry, and states of matter. MVMS is utilizing the Roadways Into Developing Elementary Students (RIDES) module, designed as an introductory to the STEM Outreach Solutions program, specifically for elementary and middle school students. For more information on ASOS, click the AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions link above under Programs.

Spring 2023

NM TransCon

The annual New Mexico Transportation and Construction Conference (NM TransCon) is an educational conference created for industry professionals by industry professionals for the purpose of staying ahead of trends and cutting-edge technologies in civil infrastructure. The workshops and lectures cover various topics and a range of competency levels.

NM TransCon is hosted by NMSU’s College of Engineering in collaboration with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, American Planning Association-New Mexico, American Society of Civil Engineers-New Mexico Section, American Council of Engineering Companies-New Mexico, Asphalt Pavement Association-New Mexico, Associated Contractors of New Mexico, and the Federal Highway Administration-New Mexico Division.

The 2023 NM TransCon, “Transforming Business as Usual into a Better Tomorrow,” will take place between April 12-14 at the Las Cruces Convention Center. The conference program includes four plenary sessions and 13 concurrent sessions, organized by leaders of the industry for industry professionals to stay up to date with trends and cutting-edge technologies in civil infrastructure.

As the Research Sponsor, the Research Bureau staff will participate in the conference and present “Transportation Innovation and Research at NMDOT.”


The Western Bridge Preservation Partnership (WBPP) is a regional forum comprised of bridge preservation practitioners from State, Local and Federal Government Agencies, Contractors, Consultants, Suppliers, and Academia where bridge preservation practices throughout the Western Region are shared. The Partnership is supported by voluntary contributions by member agencies made to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The WBPP’s mission is to better serve those who use the western transportation system through the free and open exchange of ideas and information. WBPP strives to use innovation, new ideas, new products, and our combined experience to make our bridge maintenance procedures and repairs the best that can be provided. WBPP promotes the benefits of bridge preservation by creating a uniformity of regional specifications and guidelines for bridge maintenance and preservation treatments, sharing of advanced or improved technologies and the sharing of innovative contracting practices.

The NMDOT has been a long-standing member of WBPP. March 13 – 16, 2023, NMDOT hosted the WBPP Annual Meeting in Albuquerque, NM. The Research Bureau staff participated the meeting and delivered a presentation titled “Overview of 15-Year NMDOT Bridge Research.”


AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions

On February 20, 2023, La Cueva High School participated in a one-day, customized training, provided by the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) educators, at the Research Bureau. As a member of AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions program, the NMDOT partners with local schools to provide an interactive, educational outreach STEAM program for students in grades K-12. La Cueva High School is one of the local public schools in New Mexico offering AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions.

AASHTO educators, Julia Smith, AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions Program Manager and Stephanie Phillips, AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions Technical Service Program Trainer, conducted the one-on-one training with Emily Clauss, CAD/Engineering Design teacher from La Cueva High School. With guidance, Emily constructed a bridge utilizing the AASHTO Bridge Builder Module.  ModelSmart, a 3D structure design and analysis program were used as well as the Bentley CAD software program PowerDraft. Graph paper helped Emily create a pattern where she used balsa wood and Pitsco wood glue for the essentials to construct the bridge.

Precise length, height and weight were also crucial to the design. For this particular training, Emily’s bridge was constructed with a maximum length of 10”, height of 3”-6”, width of 2” and a 1” gap in the center to place a U-bolt.  Once completed, Emily’s bridge was put to the test, slowly adding weight to a bucket suspended below the bridge deck. Emily was able to determine the bridge’s strength to weight ratio.  By looking at where and why the bridge failed, Emily was able to determine how she could be more successful building an improved bridge.

To learn more about the AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions program, visit the AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions link above on our home page.


La Cueva High School Career Day

Upon graduation, Career Day is a critical component for high school students as it allows them an opportunity to become college and career ready. On March 15th, 2023, approximately 1,800 students, grades 9th-12th, attended the annual La Cueva High School Career Day. Over 100 local business professionals from the community participated in the event. Students were able to select from the following career fields; education & training, architecture & construction, transportation, distribution, logistics, arts, A/V technology & communications, science, technology, engineering, & mathematics.  Law, public safety, corrections, & security. Business management & administration. Government & public administration. Hospitality & tourism. Health science, finance & marketing. Agriculture, food & natural resources. Information technology. Human services & manufacturing.

The Research Bureau showcased a booth at this year’s event. Team members, Shannon Vigil, Project Manager and Mariana Santiesteban, Office Administrator, were in attendance. In speaking with students, the Research Bureau staff expressed the important value of a career in State Government. As well as the many diverse career fields, such as transportation, engineering, and project management within NMDOT.

La Cueva High students were quickly drawn to the Research Bureau booth in anticipation of acquiring a fun and unique pair of reflective Pedestrian Safety shoelaces (colors ranged from green, pink, orange, and silver). In July 2021, the NMDOT adopted the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP). The department developed the plan to reduce the high rate of pedestrian fatalities in New Mexico. The reflective shoelaces were designed for this campaign.