IIHR Research Engineer Marian Muste’s innovative self-cleaning culvert design has received a national award from the American Association of State Highway

and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Research Advisory Council (RAC). RAC Region 3 has selected four top research projects for 2016 for inclusion in the “Sweet Sixteen” High Value Research Projects.

Muste’s research, “Development of Self-Cleaning Box Culvert Design: Phase II,” designed a system that flushes out sediment deposits in culverts using the power of the stream flow itself. His solution does not require maintenance and can be implemented at the time of construction or be retrofitted after the culvert is built.

This is an important advancement, because culverts in Iowa are frequently blocked by sedimentation and vegetation, which obstruct the flow and can cause the culvert to overtop during storms, producing local flooding and property damage. Clean-up of the culverts is costly in terms of time and effort, and needs to be repeated often.

The Iowa DOT has implemented Muste’s design as a culvert demonstration project on Highway 1 in Iowa City. Since the self-cleaning design was implemented, Muste’s team has observed impressive improvement. After the deployment of the new design, the sedimentation has almost disappeared. Muste says the culvert is now nearly “squeaky clean.”