Field Validation of Polyurethane Technology in Remediating Rail Substructure and Enhancing Rail Freight Capacity

Quarterly Reports Other Documents Final Report
Final Report

Primary Investigators

Tuncer Edil
University of Wisconsin-Madison


Railways are an important component of a multi-modal freight transport network that present a great potential for expansion. Ballast is a crucial material for structural support of rail tracks and trains and provides fast drainage during precipitation. The structural integrity of seriously fouled ballast (i.e., containing fine particles) and problematic railway elements can be compromised leading to track instability and ultimately, train derailments. Because of this serious consequence, costly maintenance activities, such as ballast maintenance and track reconstruction, are routinely performed by railroads, especially on tracks serving the heavy axle loads. Despite numerous advancements in maintenance technology within the rail industry, railroads annually invest billions of dollars in maintenance activities, thus new cost-effective and less intrusive methods must be adopted. An application of polyurethane void filling and particle bonding technology has been developed and has shown in the laboratory the promise to mitigate impacts of ballast fouling and rail substructure deterioration and to enhance rail freight capacity. However, its effectiveness in remediating rail substructure has not been evaluated rigorously in the field. Field validation of this technology has significant potential to transform track-substructure maintenance activities and efficiencies.


Validate in the field the feasibility of strategically placed polyurethane-stabilized layers within the rail substructure to remediate plastic deformations, thus reducing maintenance life cycle costs and increasing load capacity.


  1. Identification of field site
  2. Determination of track subsurface conditions
  3. Field injection, instrumentation, and monitoring
  4. Final report and dissemination

Project Information

  • Duration: 18 months
  • Dates: 7/1/2014 – 12/31/2015
  • Budget: $99,841 (UTC funds)
  • Student Involvement: One graduate student
  • Modal Orientation: Rail
  • Project ID: CFIRE 09-14
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