Assessment of Aggregate Sources in Michigan for High Speed Railroad Ballast

MTU Project Information

NuRail Project IDNURail2012-MTU-R02
Project TitleAssessment of Aggregate Sources in Michigan for High Speed Railroad Ballast
UniversityMichigan Technological University
Project ManagerLautala
Principal InvestigatorVitton
PI Contact InformationPhone: (906) 487-2527 Email:
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization)$10,000 MDOT; $0 USDOT RITA
Total Project Cost$10,000
Agency ID or Contract NumberDTRT12-G-UTC18 (Grant 1)
Start Date2013-06-01
End Date2013-12-31
Brief Description of Research ProjectRailroad ballast is an important component in the safety and economics of railroads and therefore it is important to use competent and long lasting ballast. Due to the high cost of truck haulage, however, obtaining a high quality ballast source close to a rail track can be difficult. In Michigan, the entire Lower Peninsula and approximately the eastern one half of the Upper Peninsula are composed of sedimentary bedrock, which generally does not make for good high quality ballast. There are, however, significant amount of carbonate and therefore carbonate quarries. In fact Michigan has one of the largest producers of carbonate aggregate in the United States. The remaining portion of the Upper Peninsula however consists of igneous and metamorphic rocks that have a very high potential for use as a ballast material. The project will consist of three parts. The first part will analyze the current Michigan Department of Transportation's (DOT's) aggregate inventory for acceptable aggregates available in Michigan. The selection process will be based on Michigan DOT specifications for ballast was well as other applicable specification for high speed rail. The second part will investigate existing waste rock stockpiles at the Cliffs Natural Resources (Cliffs) surface mines near Marquette Michigan as well as other aggregate producers in the Marquette area. Cliff operates two large surface mines the Tilten and the Empire mines, both of which produce large quantities of waste rock. The waste rock is a very hard metamorphic rock with high strength and stiffness. A review of test data for this rock will be conducted to assess its usefulness as a ballast material. The third part of the proposed research will be to test the Port Inland limestone. This rock was tested at Michigan Tech in a research project investigating the dynamic fracture characteristics of aggregates used in Portland cement concrete. Of all the carbonate aggregate tested, the Port Inland limestone showed exceptional high strain rate characteristics that were equal to basalt and gabbro aggregates. High strain rate characteristics are used to assess the wear resistance of material such as ceramics and metals. The high strain rate testing would be conducted using a 75 mm diameter split Hopkinson pressure bar. The results will be used to verify the results from the previous research conducted at Michigan Tech and to then assess its potential as a ballast source for high speed rail.
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented)
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated)
Web Links
Project Website
Final ReportNURail2012-MTU-R02_Final_Report_Aggregate.pdf