Institute Analyzing Eagle Ford Road Impacts

"Our primary goal is to help local communities to plan and prepare for heavy truck traffic and hazmat transportation incidents," said Texas A&M Transportation Institute Associate Research Scientist David Bierling, who is leading a study with Research Specialist Debbie Jasek in eight Texas counties.

The energy boom in the Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas is stressing the counties where it occurs because of the cost of repairing roads damaged by heavy trucks. Researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) are conducting a commodity-flow study in eight counties to estimate what the costs will be; TTI conducted a study last year that estimated about $40 billion will be needed during the next two decades to fix damaged roads.

"Our primary goal is to help local communities to plan and prepare for heavy truck traffic and hazmat transportation incidents," TTI Associate Research Scientist David Bierling said in a TTI news release that said Bierling is leading the study with TTI Research Specialist Debbie Jasek, with funding support coming from the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

"When something like [a hazmat spill] happens, first responders have to know what they're dealing with," Jasek said. "For example, if emergency responders roll up on an incident without the right kind of training or equipment, they could be the first casualties. And if they go down, who'll help the general public?"

Volunteers in several counties are working with local emergency planning committees to collect data for the study, according to the release. "We're excited about the commodity flow study and have several volunteers from across the county who are participating. We plan to use information from this project to specify training needs for our volunteer fire, EMS, and law enforcement departments and identify the equipment needed to respond safely. The study will also help us identify high-impact routes for future road improvements and support the need for additional roadway funding at local and state levels," Wilson County Emergency Management Coordinator LeAnn Hosek said.

According to TTI, researchers "are seeing numbers of trucks in the Eagle Ford Shale area that far exceed the design capacities of rural and state roads, resulting in extensive damage to roads and bridges. The growth in traffic may also limit the effectiveness of evacuation routes during a natural disaster like a hurricane, and increased safety hazards for drivers and pedestrians in communities are also being felt."

The study is scheduled to be finished in September 2013.

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