Evaluation of Experimental Flexible Pavements

Report No: 78-R31

Published in 1978

About the report:

A program of construction and performance evaluation of seven Virginia flexible pavements containing at least some experimental features is reported. The objective of the program is to evaluate the performance of the pavements incorporating new or timely design concepts and to assess the flexibility of these concepts for further use. Among the major findings of the study to this point are the following. 1. Pavements having equivalent design thickness indices are not necessarily equivalent in construction cost or in early structural strength. 2. Very early deflection tests do not give good indications of the ultimate strength characteristics of pavements having cement stabilized layers. 3. Full-depth asphaltic concrete pavements can give excellent performance in very poor soil areas, especially when the design is modified through the provision of a cement stabilized subgrade. 4. An unstabilized sandwich layer placed between a cement stabilized layer and asphaltic concrete layers is effective in significantly delaying the reflection of transverse cracking from the cement stabilized layer through the asphaltic concrete layers. There is some evidence that reflective cracks may develop after many years under heavy truck traffic. 5. Such a sandwich layer is weaker than either of the two layers it contacts and can cause a net reduction in pavement strength as compared with the situation where the weaker layer is on the bottom. 6. Transverse shrinkage cracks reflect from a cement treated stone subbase through 3 inches (75 mm) of bituminous concrete in as little as 18 months and through 7 inches (175 mm) of bituminous concrete in less than 5 years. 7. Cement treatment of stone subbases can be omitted in passing lanes with no detriment to performance. (This may not be true with traffic volumes near capacity because of the change in distribution of truck usage as that point is approached.) The two following recommendations for consideration by administrators of the Highway and Transportation Department seem appropriate at this time. 1. The Department is encouraged to consider the full depth asphalt concept as a desirable alternative in flexible pavement design. In poor soil areas the designs should be modified to provide cement (or lime) stabilization of the native subgrade soil. Although full depth design may be considerably more expensive than many alternatives, there is strong evidence reported herein that the full-depth pavements can provide performance somewhat better than most of these alternatives. 2. In cases where it is deemed appropriate to stabilize aggregate base materials on divided highways with four or more lanes where truck traffic is normally channeled into the outer lanes, it is structurally feasible to omit such stabilization from the inner or passing lanes. While in many cases there may be no economic advantage in such a practice because of construction difficulties, the concept is recommended for cases where it may be practically feasible.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Kenneth H. McGhee

Last updated: January 27, 2024

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