Class of 2016 Success Stories: Groundbreaking research

BGSU graduate students Simon Adamtey and Lameck Onsarigo provide road construction answers

By Bob Cunningham

If traffic delays caused by culvert installations become less noticeable in the future, it might be because of trenchless technologies — horizontal auger boring and pipe bursting — investigated by two Bowling Green State University graduate students. 

While working toward their doctoral degrees, Lameck Onsarigo of Kenya and Simon Adamtey of Ghana have introduced two more cost effective alternative methods of culvert installations which offer much less construction inconvenience. They will graduate from BGSU on Aug. 6.

Onsarigo has completed the Technology Management Ph.D. program specializing in Construction Management. He previously received Master of Technology Management and Master of Business Administration degrees from BGSU after obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management degree from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya. He also served as an instructor of a trenchless technology course at BGSU.

Adamtey’s Ph.D. is in Technology Management with a specialization in Construction Management. He received a Master of Technology Management degree with specialization in Construction Management from BGSU. Adamtey also has a Bachelor of Science in Building Technology degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. He served as an instructor of a computer applications in construction course at BGSU. 

Onsarigo’s and Adamtey’s dissertations on horizontal auger boring and pipe bursting, respectively, already have left their marks on the Ohio Department of Transportation. They both worked closely with Dr. Alan Atalah, the associate dean for graduate and faculty affairs and interim chair for the Department of Construction Management in the College of Technology Architecture and Applied Engineering.

“With the leadership of our supervisor, Dr. Atalah, we contracted a project with the Ohio Department of Transportation,” Adamtey said. “We introduced alternative trenchless technologies to them and they were interested.”

“If you want to install a pipe in the ground, there are basically two ways to do it,” Onsarigo said. “One is to dig a trench. You put the pipe inside and you cover up the trench. The other way is the trenchless option, where you put the pipe underground without digging a trench. You’re just digging a small hole at the entry location and another at the exit location and installing the pipe without having to open up the ground.” 

According to Onsarigo’s research, culverts are an important part of the underground infrastructure that provide a pathway for water to pass under roadways and railways and prevent flooding. The essence of his research was to investigate the economic viability of horizontal auger boring for installation of culverts. His research also explored productivity improvement measures for this trenchless methodology.

“They don’t have to close down the road or detour traffic,” he said. “We can install the pipe even while the traffic is flowing above the ground.” 

Culvert construction in the United States became necessary with the interstate-highway construction projects initiated under the Eisenhower administration (1953-1961). Most of these pipes were designed to last 50 years, so it is important to replace them in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Adamtey said that about 21 percent of culverts under Ohio’s priority highways are made of corrugated metal pipe (CMP). Additionally, there are many more CMP culverts under other city and county roadways in Ohio, and considering that other states, cities, and counties across the country share a similar presence of culverts under their roads, there likely are tens of thousands of CMP culverts underneath the nation's roadways. 

Pipe bursting, which is the core of Adamtey’s research, has been used to replace almost all types of pipes. However, bursting CMP is challenging because, “under compression, the ridges fold like an accordion, thickening the walls and making it very difficult to burst/split,” he said. 

“My dissertation extends from the project we had with the Ohio Department of Transportation,” Onsarigo said. “They contracted us to help them acquire a horizontal auger boring machine and to also do a cost-benefit analysis between horizontal auger boring and open-cut method.” 

Onsarigo was able to point out some efficiency improvements in the horizontal auger boring process to help with cost and time savings. 

“With the horizontal auger boring machine that we bought we were able to replace six culverts over a short period of time,” he said. 

Onsarigo’s research findings indicate that the unit costs of the horizontal auger boring and open-cut culverts installed by the ODOT crews are considerably lower than those installed by contractors’ crews. His findings also show that horizontal auger boring is an economical alternative for culvert replacement when compared to open-cut for culverts with a depth of cover exceeding three feet.

From Adamtey’s research, field tests and cost analysis were conducted to determine the feasibility and economic viability of the pipe-bursting systems in replacing CMP culverts compared to the open-cut method. The findings from the tests indicated that pipe bursting is a viable alternative for replacing CMP culverts up to 24 inches in diameter and lengths less than 150 feet. The research findings also showed that the pipe-bursting method is more economical than the open-cut method for the replacement of the culverts.

“It’s a major problem, and finding a solution for replacing corrugated metal pipes would be very beneficial not only for the Ohio Department of Transportation, but for all other state transportation agencies, too,” Adamtey said. “Through the collaboration of ODOT, the pipe bursting equipment manufacturers (TT Technologies and Hammerhead) and the research team from BGSU, four CMP culverts were successfully replaced using pipe bursting.”

While it typically takes three days to replace a culvert using the conventional open-cut method, pipe bursting can cut that time in half.

Onsarigo and Adamtey have been hired as assistant professors in Construction Management at Kent State University.