Characterisations of base course materials in Western Australia pavements
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Western Australia (WA) has a road network of approximately 177,700 km, including a 17,800 km stage highway system (Main Roads Western Australia 2009). This infrastructure supports a population of only about two million, and road funds always have to be carefully considered when allocated to highway authorities or other organisations. Pavement design is a process intended to find the most economical combination of suitable materials and layer thicknesses for construction. The pavement must have a carefully-specified unbound granular base to further reduce construction costs, and must be surfaced with an approximately 30 mm asphalt surface in WA. High quality aggregates are therefore required for the base course layer of a pavement because of its proximity to the road surface. Traffic loads on the road surface result in high stress levels on the base course layer. Consequently, Hydrated Cement Treated Crushed Rock Base (HCTCRB) was developed.Current pavement analysis and design in WA is thought to be sub-standard. A number of highways and roads in WA are exhibiting extensive surface damage as a result of the increasing numbers of vehicles in use. Since pavement analysis and design in WA relies predominantly on empirical design, experience and basic experimentation, explanations for the damage occurring under present conditions are difficult to determine and assess.In most areas of the USA and Europe, pavement design and analysis has entered a new era with mechanistic design replacing empirical design. Unlike the empirical approach, a mechanistic approach seeks to explain pavement characteristics under real operational pavement conditions (loads, material properties of the pavement structure, and environments), and is based on design parameters derived from sophisticated tests which can simulate real pavement conditions in the test protocol (WSDOT 2008). The mechanistic approach to pavement design produces more relevant and useful results and these procedures, along with linear elastic analysis, were introduced into Australia by the 1987 NAASRA Guide (NAASRA 1987), of which the revised version became the AUSTROADS Guide (Austroads 2004) to the Structural Design of Road Pavements. AUSTROADS published a National Pavement Research Strategy which has been the keystone for the national co-ordination of pavement research, both within government and industry.Adaptation of the Cement Modified Crushed Rock Base concept has brought about an excellent road base material for Western Australia (WA) by the addition of a small amount of cement (1-2% by mass) to a fresh crushed rock material. The mix is stockpiled for a hydration period, and after that retreated before construction, unlike the traditional concept for cement modified/stabilised materials. This material is usually called Hydrated Cement Treated Crushed Rock Base (HCTCRB), a name established by Western Australia Mainroads (MRWA). More than 250,000 tonnes of HCTCRB has been used at a cost in excess of $10 million over the last eight years.Recently, as a result of early damage on new highways and roads in WA, MRWA and its contractors and organisations have attempted to identify the cause of this damage. HCTCRB, which is currently the best option for base course materials in WA, and Crushed Road Base (CRB), the original road base material, need to be re-examined to overcome the shortcomings in terms of analysis, design, and application. All of the factors involved in HCTCRB and CRB for today’s pavement conditions have been extrapolated far beyond the bounds of the original data, and current experience shows these require detailed re-investigation.This research aimed to study on the characteristics of CRB and HCTCRB and to determine reliable mathematical material models for the improvement in the current pavement design criteria. This study also investigated both elastic and plastic behaviour of CRB and HCTCRB. In this study, there were two relevant factors of both pavement materials which are considered in order to fulfil a lack of understanding in realistic conditions in pavements of the current pavement design. 1) The material strength which indicates the limitation and stability of pavement materials under traffic loads. This study employed the Mohr-Coulomb failure envelope to define the limitation of material implementation and also brought in the resilient modulus of materials to be the significant input parameter for multilayer finite element analysis to characterise the stress distribution in pavements. 2) The pavement failure of long term road performance relating to the design life of pavements. The permanent deformation behaviour and the shakedown concept under various stress conditions, simulated from repeated load triaxial (RLT) tests, therefore, were taken into account to investigate such long-term performance of HCTCRB and CRB and then the implementation of the findings was made to the current pavement analysis and design. Furthermore, more reliable mathematic models of base course materials for short and long term performance during their service life were established based on the laboratory test results of this study.
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