Optimizing Pavement Base, Subbase, and Subgrade Layers for Cost and Performance of Local Roads

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Vennapusa, Pavana
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White, David
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Institute for Transportation
InTrans administers 14 centers and programs, and several other distinct research specialties, and a variety of technology transfer and professional education initiatives. More than 100 Iowa State University faculty and staff work at InTrans, and from 200 to 250 student assistants from several ISU departments conduct research while working closely with university faculty. InTrans began in 1983 as a technical assistance program for Iowa’s rural transportation agencies.
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This report is one of two products for this project with the other being a design guide. This report describes test results and comparative analysis from 16 different portland cement concrete (PCC) pavement sites on local city and county roads in Iowa. At each site the surface conditions of the pavement (i.e., crack survey) and foundation layer strength, stiffness, and hydraulic conductivity properties were documented. The field test results were used to calculate in situ parameters used in pavement design per SUDAS and AASHTO (1993) design methodologies. Overall, the results of this study demonstrate how in situ and lab testing can be used to assess the support conditions and design values for pavement foundation layers and how the measurements compare to the assumed design values. The measurements show that in Iowa, a wide range of pavement conditions and foundation layer support values exist. The calculated design input values for the test sites (modulus of subgrade reaction, coefficient of drainage, and loss of support) were found to be different than typically assumed. This finding was true for the full range of materials tested. The findings of this study support the recommendation to incorporate field testing as part of the process to field verify pavement design values and to consider the foundation as a design element in the pavement system. Recommendations are provided in the form of a simple matrix for alternative foundation treatment options if the existing foundation materials do not meet the design intent. The PCI prediction model developed from multi-variate analysis in this study demonstrated a link between pavement foundation conditions and PCI. The model analysis shows that by measuring properties of the pavement foundation, the engineer will be able to predict long term performance with higher reliability than by considering age alone. This prediction can be used as motivation to then control the engineering properties of the pavement foundation for new or re-constructed PCC pavements to achieve some desired level of performance (i.e., PCI) with time.


See also the 456 page full report under the same title.