Identifying and Addressing Soil Property Issues Affecting Roadside Vegetation Establishment

Establishing vegetation quickly on roadsides is an important task of the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR). Roadside vegetation performs ecosystem functions and benefits people and their environment in many ways. First, well-established vegetation on highway roadsides can reduce erosion and stabilize slopes as it helps remove water in the subgrade of roadways, a factor that strongly affects pavement life and serviceability (Cedergren 1974). Second, vegetation on highway shoulders provides hazard-free zones for errant vehicles and reduces blowing and drifting snow onto highway. Third, attaining adequate vegetation cover along roadways could help NDOR comply with Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) stormwater regulations, because effective roadside vegetation could remove pollutants such as chemical oxygen demand and total phosphorus from highway runoff (Kaighn and Yu 1996). Finally, roadside vegetation provides habitat and corridors to wildlife and scenic beauty to roads users (Akbar et al. 2003). However, several Nebraska highways have 2 segments where vegetation cover failed to establish despite repeated seeding efforts. Preliminary studies suggest poor soil conditions were the underlying reason. There is a critical need to identify and address specific soil property issues that cause vegetation establishment failure. The goal of this study is to identify cost-effective solutions that can assure adequate seed beds (i.e., soil conditions) for establishment of selected seeding mixtures. One important step toward this goal is to determine soil factors that have the most profound effects on roadside vegetation establishment. Vegetation cover on roadway shoulders is imperative to prevent erosion, ensure highway safety, remediate stormwater, and enhance the roadside view. However, in Year 2013 alone, there have been at least 9 roadside vegetation projects that require re-seeding to meet the stormwater guideline, which requires 70% of the pre-construction vegetation cover. The proposed research project is designed to address the challenge of establishing vigorous plant growth along Nebraska's roadways. Replacing suboptimal soil with higher grade soil could be one approach to address the challenge. However, the cost associated with this option could be prohibitive. Identifying effective seed mixtures and soil remediation could be cost effective solutions. Successful completion of this project will add to the knowledge base of soil conditions and solutions to remedy these conditions along Nebraska roadways. The knowledge will be critical in identifying cost-effective, alternative means to establish vegetation cover on roadside, such as choosing proper seed mixture and improving the conditions of existing suboptimal soil. Furthermore, the knowledge on soil conditions along Nebraska roadways can help planning for future roadside vegetation projects. Finally, the outcome of the proposed project is expected to help NDOR meet regulatory requirements on stormwater management.


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    • Status: Active
    • Funding: $86034.00
    • Contract Numbers:

      SPR-P1(15) M035

    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Federal Highway Administration

      1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
      Washington, DC  United States  20590

      Nebraska Department of Roads

      1500 Highway 2
      Lincoln, NE  United States  68502
    • Performing Organizations:

      University of Nebraska, Lincoln

      Department of Civil Engineering
      362M Whittier Research Center
      Lincoln, NE  United States  68583-0856
    • Principal Investigators:

      Li, Xu

    • Start Date: 20140501
    • Expected Completion Date: 0
    • Actual Completion Date: 20160331
    • Source Data: RiP Project 36065

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01569419
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Nebraska Department of Roads
    • Contract Numbers: SPR-P1(15) M035
    • Files: RiP, STATEDOT
    • Created Date: Jul 11 2015 1:00AM