September 2021 Vol. 76 No. 9


Trenchless Technology Center Report: TTC Thrives Through the Pandemic

By Dr. John Matthews, Trenchless Technology Center Director

The Trenchless Technology Center (TTC) at Louisiana Tech University has once again had an active year of research, training and growth. Its Industry Advisory Board (IAB) continued to meet its mission to advance trenchless technology by serving as an independent source of knowledge, research and education in the industry. 

While not immune to the impacts of the global pandemic that has affected all aspects of our daily lives, TTC is operating at full force now, after several months of remote and shifted work. The TTC pivoted to provide training online this past year and will continue to do so until municipalities are ready to return to in-person training. 

In 2021, TTC has again maintained its role as a leader in trenchless education and research and is continuing to grow its impact in the areas of industry workforce development and training. TTC reached new heights in the overall number of IAB members, even as we entered our 32nd year of existence. This tells us that there is importance in our mission that is valuable to the trenchless technology manufacturers, contractors, engineers and owners we serve. 

Research, development 

This year, TTC’s research contracts continued to be very active and diverse, with a number of industry and governmental projects taking place, while even more proposals were submitted to a wide range of funding agencies. As it has been historically, the majority of TTC research is funded by industry clients and associations, some of whom require various types of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). This has always limited the amount of research TTC is able to publish. 

Despite this fact, in 2020–2021, TTC researchers actually outperformed the previous banner year of 2019–2020 in terms of the number of peer-reviewed publications produced. As a center, the members produced a record 16 peer-reviewed journal papers in 2018 and exceeded that amount with 19 in 2019 and again with 27 in 2021. This is an important metric for many research centers and associated faculty members and researchers. 

Currently, TTC has more than 10 active research projects underway, and approximately four that were completed during this past year. A few brief research effort updates are noted below. 

TTC continues to be a thought leader in non-destructive testing (NDT) and its application in a number of areas, led by Dr. Arun Jaganathan, associate professor of civil engineering. For years, this work has been applied to solve problems related to in-pipe inspection, through wall defect detection, and obstacle detection and avoidance. Most of the work is carried out completely in-house, from theoretical modeling to design, and prototyping of the solution. 

In fact, most of the modeling is written in unique code, not with commercially available software programs. This is an extremely unique capability, even for a university research center, that TTC is able to share with its partners to help solve complex problems. Most work in this area cannot be published due to NDAs and IP protections, but TTC was recently awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation focused on surface wave analysis of RCPs. 

The CIPP emissions study for NASSCO, which was completed by a team led by Dr. Elizabeth Matthews, assistant professor of civil engineering, has now moved to Phase 3. This new project is specifically focused on the emissions of CIPP liners in their uncured state inside of a storage unit or transport truck. This study will determine the breakthrough times of emissions by varying the coating materials and thicknesses on the uncured CIPP liners. The Phase 3 study is being led by Dr. Shaurav Alam, TTC associate director for research. Once a relationship is established for various coatings, field validations will be completed with actual transport trucks containing actual liners being transported to job sites. This study is being supported by NASSCO. 

TTC continued its internally funded work in the area of innovative materials led by Dr. Alam. This team has been investigating numerous thrusts including innovative cementitious materials for infrastructure components and coatings, as well as innovative curing of both construction materials and pipe lining materials. The findings are quite fascinating and have potentially widespread impacts for the construction industry. TTC Researcher Dr. Sudhir Amritphale has also been exploring various applications for innovative cementitious and geopolymer materials with exciting new benefits. 

Work also continued with various trenchless rehabilitation technology suppliers to further develop testing methods and protocols for innovative materials and designs. To that end, TTC maintained is recently obtained lab accreditation to ISO/IEC Standard 17025:2017 for another year. 

This achievement took a team effort and was not a straightforward process, considering that TTC conducts many non-standardized tests, because many of the materials/methods in the trenchless industry are on the cutting edge of what has been done before. Therefore, standard tests do not yet exist. Despite this fact, TTC was able to meet ISO 17-025 standards and has the ability to add more tests to its accreditation in the future, if needed. Special thanks to core team members Chris Morgan (lab manager), Dr. Alam and Dr. Amin Azimi for their support with this effort. 

One final research note is that the highly competitive NSF Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) Planning grant that was awarded to researchers at TTC and its partners at LSU came to end and the team was awarded a Phase 1 I/UCRC grant. The I/UCRC program is a unique offering from NSF that focuses on pre-competitive research, while also engaging directly with industry to ensure that research will have practical impacts down the road. 

The newly formed center is known as CISIA (The Center for Innovations in Structural Integrity Assurance) and focuses on a variety of structural integrity-related issues, including sensing, inspection, testing, analysis and prediction, which are strengths of both center sites for various industries. 

For more information about CISIA or any TTC research, please contact TTC Director Dr. John Matthews at or TTC Associate Director of Research, Dr. Shaurav Alam at 

Industry advisory board 

One of the biggest strengths of TTC remains its very active Industry Advisory Board (IAB), which has been in place since the center’s inception more than 31 years ago. The IAB is a unique feature for a university research center that both helps to keep staff focused on industry issues, while also providing workforce opportunities for many of the undergraduate and graduate students associated with the center. TTC relies on the IAB for guidance on its activities and for financial support of the center and its research, which are key to the successful operation of its mission. 

This year, TTC maintained its overall IAB membership at 56 members, matching last years’ record-setting number of members. The board is bolstered by more than 20 municipal/utility members that support TTC in multiple ways, including providing data for research and sites for field work when needed. Member organizations are listed below by category. For more information on each IAB member organization and representative, please visit 

  • Manufacturers & Contractors (8):Aegion, AOCAliancys, BRH-Garver, Geotree, Interplastic, IPEX, Reline America and Sanexen. 
  • Municipal & Utility (22): Albany (NY), Aurora (CO), Bloomington (MN), Boston (MA), Caddo Levee (LA), Carencro (LA), Citizens Energy (IN), Columbus (OH), Denver (CO), Houston (TX), Hull (MA), Long Beach (CA), Los Angeles (CA), Metro Wastewater Reclamation (CO), Monroe (LA), New York City (NY), Portland (OR), Ruston (LA), San Antonio (TX), Shreveport (LA), Upper Trinity Regional Water (TX), & Vancouver (WA).
  • Consultants (7):Carollo, Garver,GeoEngineers, Jacobs, Kleinfelder, Stantec and Subtegic. 
  • Media (3):Underground Construction/UCT, Benjamin Media andWestrade. 
  • Associations (3): LA CETF, NASSCO and NUCA.
  • Honorary (8): BobAffholder, JoeBarsoom, Mike Garver, Dr. Les Guice, Dr. Tom Iseley, Lynn Osborn, Kaleel Rahaim and Dr. Ray Sterling. 
  • TTC Sponsors (5):InnerCure, Olson Construction Law, Raven, Thompson Pipe Group and & Trinity.

Tom Wynne with the New York City DDC, continues to serve as the IAB chairman and Ali Mustapha, P.E., executive director for the Caddo Level District in Shreveport, La., continues to serve as vice-chair. If you are interested in learning more about the IAB or joining the board, please contact TTC Director, Dr. John Matthews at 

Educational initiatives: Municipal Forums 

TTC’s Municipal Forum program consisted of all virtual forums this past year due to the pandemic and the modified program was very successful. 

The three 2020 Virtual Municipal Forums conducted in September and October covered broad topic areas including: Pressure Pipe Rehabilitation, Large-Diameter Sewer Repair and Trenchless Technology Project Management. Sponsors and speakers for the Virtual Municipal Forums were from the following organizations: Aegion, ClockSpring-NRI/GeoTree, HammerHead Trenchless, Jacobs, Kleinfelder, Olson Construction Law, Primus Line, QuakeWrap, Reline America, Subtegic Group and the Trenchless Technology Center (TTC). 

For the first time, we were also able to record the forums for future viewing. If you would like to gain access to any of the recorded forums to earn Continuing Education units (CEUs), please visit the  
TTC website or contact Dr. Matthews  
for more information. 

A total of five virtual forums were held in the Spring of 2021. Currently, four forms are already scheduled for Fall 2021: Sept. 16 (Machine Learning for Asset Management), Sept. 22 (Pressure Pipe Cleaning, Evaluation and Lining), and Nov. 11 (Pipe Tunneling). We are also planning an in-person forum in Vancouver, Wash., for Nov. 4. 

Sponsors and speakers for these upcoming forums will include the following organizations: AECOM, Aegion, Aging Water Infrastructure, BRH Garver, city of Portland, city of Vancouver, Evanco, Hazen & Sawyer, Jacobs, SewerAI, Thompson Pipe, Underground Construction magazine and the Trenchless Technology Center (TTC). Others are expected to join as well. 

TTC plans to explore new locations and online delivery during the pandemic, so if you are interested in hosting a forum, having specific topics included in program, or would like to present at any of the forums, please contact Dr. John Matthews at 

TTC conducts Utility Investigation School 

The importance of accurately locating and depicting existing underground utilities becomes more obvious each day to ensure successful construction projects. It has been reported that at least 70 percent of projects experience delays and budget overruns due to utility conflicts. The CGA DIRT reported in 2015 that there were 340,000 utility strikes and in 2017 this number grew to almost 380,000. The industry is experiencing too much property damage and loss of lives. 

TTC has responded to this crisis by partnering once again with ASCE’s Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute (UESI) and the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) to offer a five-day Utility Investigation School (UIS). This specialty school was recently taught by the foremost experts in the geophysics and subsurface utility engineering (SUE) fields for the fifth time on Louisiana Tech’s campus in late May. The course covered geophysics, utility systems construction and configuration, ASCE 38-02, risk-based presentations, and professional liability issues. The instruction for this school was led by Jim Anspach and Dr. Tom Iseley. The program included an industry day where technology providers were able to show and demonstrate their tools. 

The TTC team is committed to increasing awareness and expanding knowledge of SUE on a global basis and has also started to provide UIS schools at other locations. For further information on this school please contact Dr. John Matthews. 

TTC BERT training facility 

Construction of the new Barbera Education, Research and Training (BERT) facility was completed in early 2021 despite the challenging environment of 2020 and the pandemic. Once completed, it was immediately used as part of the aforementioned UIS School in May and is planned to be used thoroughly for the upcoming fourth Auger Boring School in October. ABS helps to meet the high demand for engineers and contractors needing training in auger boring design, application and installation. The school includes classroom lectures and practical sessions. 

BERT is also available for other training programs and for international equipment and material manufacturers and technology providers for research, development and validation. The facility is the industry’s resource to provide dedicated programs for workforce and professional development. For more information about training opportunities or any of the TTC activities, please contact Dr. John Matthews at


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