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Civil Engineering Study to Improve Roadway/Bridge Connections

November 27, 2007

The Texas Department of Transportation has awarded a grant to researchers in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Arlington to create and evaluate methods to prevent roadway subsidence at bridge approaches. Their findings could eliminate the bumps and jolts often experienced by drivers as their vehicles move from road to bridge surfaces.

Drs. Anand Puppala and Laureano Hoyos are the principal investigators on the project, titled “Recommendations for Design, Construction and Maintenance of Bridge Approach Slabs.” They will be assisted by Post Doctoral Research Associate Sireesh Saride and doctoral student Ekarut Archeewa, both at UT Arlington, and Dr. Soheil Nazarian of UT El Paso. The grant has a value of $502,000, with $379,000 going to UT Arlington.

Bridge approaches connect the roadway pavement with the bridge deck. The major factors contributing to the formation of bumps here are improper compaction of soil below the approach slabs, compression of poor natural soil in the embankment and loss of embankment material. The resulting uneven surface not only creates a bumpy ride for drivers and passengers, it also increases vertical forces on the bridge decking, causing distress to the bridge structure.

“Our first task is to study what methods have been used in other states,” said Dr. Puppala. “We have been very successful here with the deep-mixing procedures we developed for Texas roadway heaving. Now we plan to conduct field studies using this procedure to target bridge approach settlement.”

The team will test some of their ideas on the three bridges being constructed over I-30 in Arlington as part of the plan to relieve traffic congestion caused by crowds attending football games and other activities at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. Richard Williammee, a materials engineer with TxDOT’s Fort Worth District, is the project director for this research.