Pavement Design Using Unsaturated Soil Technology

Principal Investigator(s):

Satish Gupta, Former Professor, Soil, Water & Climate

Project summary:

Pavements are constructed on compacted soils that are typically unsaturated. The negative pore-water pressure (soil suction) due to the ingress of water in between soil particles has a significant effect on pavement foundation stiffness and strength. This study characterized the effects of soil suction on shear strength and resilient modulus of four soils representing different regions of Minnesota. The deviator stress in shear strength measurements followed a power function relationship with soil suction. Resilient modulus also followed the power function relationship with suction, but these relationships fell within a narrow range. Models are presented for incorporating suction effects in shear strength and resilient modulus measurements of highly compacted subgrade soils. A framework is outlined for incorporating these models in the resistance factors of MnPAVE. Since soil water content and the resulting soil suction under the pavement varies with season, adjustments are needed to account for increased strength and stiffness of the material as a result of unsaturated soil conditions. These adjustments will not only reflect the more realistic field conditions, but will result in more reliable performance predictions than the current pavement design method.

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