SIUE engineers test ways to manage stormwater runoff on highways | St. Louis Public Radio

SIUE engineers test ways to manage stormwater runoff on highways

Nov 30, 2016

Engineering researchers at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville are helping the Illinois Department of Transportation develop strategies for managing stormwater runoff on highways.

Highways and roads interrupt the natural flow of water during rains and especially heavy precipitation could cause much of the runoff to overload sewers. Runoff also can taint the water quality of the rivers and streams that it enters.

"When we build roads, we are altering the environment by putting it there. Previously, the water could go from the west side of the highway to the east side and now it can't," said Abdolreza Osouli, assistant professor of engineering at SIUE. "If you let this water run off [the highways] and go into pipes and drains and the sewer systems of the urban area, then you are basically overloading those facilities."

A study by Climate Central in September noted that the New Year's flood in St. Louis caused one of the largest sewage overflow events in the country in the last couple years. 

Abdolreza Osouli, assistant professor of civil engineering at SIUE, speaks to Illinois transportation officials at a research site, where engineers are testing structures to retain stormwater runoff.
Credit Provided by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Osouli said that one way to handle stormwater is to build a tank to hold it, but that would be costly. He and his colleagues at SIUE are testing cost-effective structures that could be used to retain one inch of stormwater on roads and highways. Planting vegetation along the shoulders or the meridians of roads is another tactic that could help absorb water. 

The research is funded by a multi-year grant from IDOT, totaling more than $230,000. 

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