Manual Highway Engineering : Pavements, Materials and Control of Quality

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When building a three layer flexible pavement, the subbase layer is not used and the base course is placed directly on the natural subgrade. A flexible pavement's surface layer is constructed of hot-mix asphalt HMA. The subbase is generally constructed from local aggregate material, while the top of the subgrade is often stabilized with cement or lime. With flexible pavement, the highest stress occurs at the surface and the stress decreases as the depth of the pavement increases. Therefore, the highest quality material needs to be used for the surface, while lower quality materials can be used as the depth of the pavement increases.

The term "flexible" is used because of the asphalts ability to bend and deform slightly, then return to its original position as each traffic load is applied and removed.

Comprehensive Mechanistic-based Quality Control of Flexible Pavements with NDT Methods

It is possible for these small deformations to become permanent, which can lead to rutting in the wheel path over an extended time. The service life of a flexible pavement is typically designed in the range of 20 to 30 years. Factors such as these are taken into consideration during the design process so that the pavement will last for the designed life without excessive distresses. Rigid pavements are generally used in constructing airports and major highways, such as those in the interstate highway system. In addition, they commonly serve as heavy-duty industrial floor slabs, port and harbor yard pavements, and heavy-vehicle park or terminal pavements.

Like flexible pavements, rigid highway pavements are designed as all-weather, long-lasting structures to serve modern day high-speed traffic. Offering high quality riding surfaces for safe vehicular travel, they function as structural layers to distribute vehicular wheel loads in such a manner that the induced stresses transmitted to the subgrade soil are of acceptable magnitudes.

Portland cement concrete PCC is the most common material used in the construction of rigid pavement slabs.


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The reason for its popularity is due to its availability and the economy. Rigid pavements must be designed to endure frequently repeated traffic loadings. The typical designed service life of a rigid pavement is between 30 and 40 years, lasting about twice as long as a flexible pavement. One major design consideration of rigid pavements is reducing fatigue failure due to the repeated stresses of traffic.

Fatigue failure is common among major roads because a typical highway will experience millions of wheel passes throughout its service life. In addition to design criteria such as traffic loadings, tensile stresses due to thermal energy must also be taken into consideration. As pavement design has progressed, many highway engineers have noted that thermally induced stresses in rigid pavements can be just as intense as those imposed by wheel loadings. Due to the relatively low tensile strength of concrete, thermal stresses are extremely important to the design considerations of rigid pavements.

Rigid pavements are generally constructed in three layers - a prepared subgrade, base or subbase, and a concrete slab. The concrete slab is constructed according to a designed choice of plan dimensions for the slab panels, directly influencing the intensity of thermal stresses occurring within the pavement. In addition to the slab panels, temperature reinforcements must be designed to control cracking behavior in the slab.

Joint spacing is determined by the slab panel dimensions. JPCPs are constructed with contraction joints which direct the natural cracking of the pavement. These pavements do not use any reinforcing steel. JRCPs are constructed with both contraction joints and reinforcing steel to control the cracking of the pavement. High temperatures and moisture stresses within the pavement creates cracking, which the reinforcing steel holds tightly together.

At transverse joints, dowel bars are typically placed to assist with transferring the load of the vehicle across the cracking.

Difference between Flexible & Rigid Pavements.

CRCPs solely rely on continuous reinforcing steel to hold the pavement's natural transverse cracks together. Prestressed concrete pavements have also been used in the construction of highways; however, they are not as common as the other three. Prestressed pavements allow for a thinner slab thickness by partly or wholly neutralizing thermally induced stresses or loadings. Over the service life of a flexible pavement, accumulated traffic loads may cause excessive rutting or cracking, inadequate ride quality, or an inadequate skid resistance.

These problems can be avoided by adequately maintaining the pavement, but the solution usually has excessive maintenance costs, or the pavement may have an inadequate structural capacity for the projected traffic loads. There are three general types of overlay used on flexible pavements: asphalt-concrete overlay, Portland cement concrete overlay, and ultra-thin Portland cement concrete overlay.

The concrete layer in a conventional PCC overlay is placed unbonded on top of the flexible surface. There are two main categories of flexible pavement overlay design procedures: [13]. Near the end of a rigid pavement's service life, a decision must be made to either fully reconstruct the worn pavement, or construct an overlay layer. Considering an overlay can be constructed on a rigid pavement that has not reached the end of its service life, it is often more economically attractive to apply overlay layers more frequently. The required overlay thickness for a structurally sound rigid pavement is much smaller than for one that has reached the end of its service life.

There are three subcategories of rigid pavement overlays that are organized depending on the bonding condition at the pavement overlay and existing slab interface. Designing for proper drainage of highway systems is crucial to their success. Regardless of how well other aspects of a road are designed and constructed, adequate drainage is mandatory for a road to survive its entire service life. Excess water in the highway structure can inevitably lead to premature failure, even if the failure is not catastrophic. Each highway drainage system is site-specific and can be very complex.

Depending on the geography of the region, many methods for proper drainage may not be applicable. The highway engineer must determine which situations a particular design process should be applied, usually a combination of several appropriate methods and materials to direct water away from the structure. Erosion control is a crucial component in the design of highway drainage systems. Surface drainage must be allowed for precipitation to drain away from the structure.

Highways must be designed with a slope or crown so that runoff water will be directed to the shoulder of the road, into a ditch, and away from the site. Designing a drainage system requires the prediction of runoff and infiltration, open channel analysis, and culvert design for directing surface water to an appropriate location.

Highway construction is generally preceded by detailed surveys and subgrade preparation. Shahmohammadie, R. Taylor, United Kingdom. Godenzoni, A. Graziani, M. Bocci, Italy. Frigio, E.

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