Research informs state decisions

ECU graduate Richard Shores prepares a noise meter for a road test. Shores assisted in the highway noise research while a graduate student at ECU. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

By Rachel Castro
ECU News Services

A two-year research project at East Carolina University is turning up information that could help North Carolina tone down the roar of tires on busy highways.

A $218,000 grant to the Department of Construction Management in the College of Technology and Computer Science is funding a study of tire and pavement noise in the state. The findings, said Dr. George Wang, the principal investigator of the project, will help guide state decisions about the best pavement for road building in the state.

“This work has laid a cornerstone for future determination of the most cost-effective and durable quiet pavements suitable for use by the North Carolina Department of Transportation,” said Wang, an ECU construction management professor.

“The project will provide a valuable tool in the reduction of pavement noise for certain pavement types found throughout the state,” he said. Noise can be detrimental to human health. It has been known to cause hearing impairment, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular effects, psycho-physiological effects, psychiatric symptoms, myocardial infection and impact fetal development.


Data collection equipment measures pavement noise while a vehicle travels down the highway.

The study will be completed by the end of the year. Information collected has enabled the research team to develop a data collection system for measuring pavement noise.

Traffic noise is considered an environmental impact; it affects where and how highway systems can be built or expanded, Wang said. Pavement noise is a crucial aspect of traffic noise. Identifying a quieter pavement is critical to reducing the impact of roads, he said.

The team has been testing nine different types of pavement on approximately 70 highways and about 30 counties in North Carolina.

“Being able to identify these quiet roads is important to reduce traffic noise levels in urban areas and improve the quality of living for those affected by noise pollution,” said ECU graduate Richard Shores of Apex, who worked with Wang throughout the study.

“Our research trips took us to every border of North Carolina; to the beach, Tennessee, Virginia and to South Carolina,” Shores said. “After all the measurements were done, we worked on data analysis to rank the different types of pavement on how loud they were.”

The data is categorized based on pavement type, age and testing speed.

The last step is to organize the entire project into a report for presentation to the NCDOT, Shores said.

Shores said he feels more confident in his abilities to manage large projects after working on the research study. “Working to set up equipment, properly planning testing procedures and performing data analysis are all critical aspects of any physics based job,” he said. Shores obtained an undergraduate degree in physics and a masters of science in medical physics before graduating in May.

North Carolina is one of eight states participating in the Federal Highway Administration’s Pooled Fund Study on tire-pavement noise, and is the only state in the Southeast participating.

The research was funded by the NCDOT.



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