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Low-Cost Rural Surface Alternatives: Demonstration Project
InTrans Project Reports (2015). (2015)
  • Cheng Li, Iowa State University
  • Jeramy C Ashlock, Iowa State University
  • David White, Iowa State University
  • Pavana Vennapusa, Iowa State University

The goals of this project were to implement several stabilization methods for preventing or mitigating freeze-thaw damage to granular surfaced roads and identify the most effective and economical methods for the soil and climate conditions of Iowa. Several methods and technologies identified as potentially suitable for Iowa were selected from an extensive analysis of existing literature provided with Iowa Highway Research Board (IHRB) Project TR-632.

Using the selected methods, demonstration sections were constructed in Hamilton County on a heavily traveled two-mile section of granular surfaced road that required frequent maintenance during previous thawing periods. Construction procedures and costs of the demonstration sections were documented, and subsequent maintenance requirements were tabulated through two seasonal freeze-thaw periods.

Extensive laboratory and field tests were performed prior to construction, as well as before and after the two seasonal freeze-thaw periods, to monitor the performance of the demonstration sections. A weather station was installed at the project site and temperature sensors were embedded in the subgrade to monitor ground temperatures up to a depth of 5 ft and determine the duration and depths of ground freezing and thawing.

An economic analysis was performed using the documented construction and maintenance costs, and the estimated cumulative costs per square yard were projected over a 20-year timeframe to determine break-even periods relative to the cost of continuing current maintenance practices.

Overall, the sections with biaxial geogrid or macadam base courses had the best observed freeze-thaw performance in this study. These two stabilization methods have larger initial costs and longer break-even periods than aggregate columns, but counties should also weigh the benefits of improved ride quality and savings that these solutions can provide as excellent foundations for future paving or surface upgrades.

  • freeze-thaw,
  • granular surfaced roads,
  • low-volume roads,
  • mechanistic-based performance,
  • soil stabilization,
  • thaw weakening
Publication Date
June, 2015
Publisher Statement
The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors, who are responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the information presented herein. The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the sponsors. The sponsors assume no liability for the contents or use of the information contained in this document. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. The sponsors do not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document. The preparation of this report was financed in part through funds provided by the Iowa Department of Transportation through its “Second Revised Agreement for the Management of Research Conducted by Iowa State University for the Iowa Department of Transportation” and its amendments. The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Iowa Department of Transportation
Citation Information
Cheng Li, Jeramy C. Ashlock, David White, and Pavana Vennapusa. "Low-Cost Rural Surface Alternatives: Demonstration Project". InTrans Project Reports (2015).