Optimization and Management of Materials in Earthwork Construction (TR-501)

Project Investigators

Vern Schaefer, Radhey Sharma, David White


Longjie Hong

Project Schedule

Jan 2004 to Dec 2005


Iowa Highway Research Board


culverts, earthwork construction, geo-materials, optimization, unsuitable soils

Project Description

As a result of forensic investigations of problems across Iowa, a research study was developed aimed at providing solutions to identified problems through better management and optimization of the available pavement geotechnical materials and through ground improvement, soil reinforcement, and other soil treatment techniques. The overall goal was worked out through simple laboratory experiments, such as particle size analysis, plasticity tests, compaction tests, permeability tests, and strength tests. A review of the problems suggested three areas of study: pavement cracking due to improper management of pavement geotechnical materials, permeability of mixed-subgrade soils, and settlement of soil above the pipe due to improper compaction of the backfill. This resulted in the following three areas of study:

  1. The optimization and management of earthwork materials through general soil mixing of various select and unsuitable soils and a specific example of optimization of materials in earthwork construction by soil mixing.
  2. An investigation of the saturated permeability of compacted glacial till in relation to validation and prediction with the Enhanced Integrated Climatic Model (EICM)
  3. A field investigation and numerical modeling of culvert settlement

For each area of study, a literature review was conducted, research data were collected and analyzed, and important findings and conclusions were drawn. It was found that optimum mixtures of select and unsuitable soils can be defined that allow the use of unsuitable materials in embankment and subgrade locations. An improved model of saturated hydraulic conductivity was proposed for use with glacial soils from Iowa. The use of proper trench backfill compaction or the use of flowable mortar will reduce the potential for developing a bump above culverts.