Minimizing longitudinal pavement cracking due to subgrade shrinkage
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The State of Texas has the most extensive network of surface-treated pavements in the nation. This network has suffered from the detrimental effects of expansive soils in the subgrade for decades. Longitudinal cracking on the Farm-to-Market (FM) network is one of the most prevalent pavement distresses caused by volumetric changes of expansive subgrades. Engineering practice has shown that geogrid reinforcement and lime treatment can effectively reduce the reflection of longitudinal cracking on the pavement over shrinking subgrade. However, little is known about the mechanism leading to the propagation of the shrinkage cracks to the surface of the pavement. The use of geogrid reinforcement and lime treatment is mostly based on empirical engineering experience and has not been addressed in depth. This dissertation research evaluates the stress field and constitutive models of the subgrade soil subjected to matric suction change. The non-uniform matric suction change in the subgrade is simulated by a thermal expansion model in a finite element program, ABAQUS, to determine the shrinkage stresses in the subgrade soil and pavement structure. Numerical solution by the finite element analysis shows that the most likely location of shrinkage crack initiation in the subgrade is close to the pavement shoulder and close to the interface of the base and subgrade. Linear elastic fracture mechanics theory is used to analyze the crack propagation in the pavement. Compared to the fracture toughness of the pavement materials, the stress concentration at the initial shrinkage crack tip is large enough to drive the crack to propagate further. When the shrinkage crack propagates through the whole pavement structure, a longitudinal crack develops at the pavement surface close to the pavement shoulder. Based on the analysis of shrinkage crack propagation, this dissertation investigates the mechanism of geogrid reinforcement and lime treatment. The geogrid can significantly reduce the stress concentration at the crack tip if the geogrid is placed at the bottom of the base. A geogrid with a higher stiffness further reduces the stress intensity factor at the upper tip of the shrinkage crack. The lime treatment can improve the mechanical properties of the expansive soil in several ways. The lime-treated soil has lower plasticity index, higher tensile strength and higher fracture toughness. The possible location of the shrinkage crack initiation is not in the lime-stabilized soil but in the untreated natural soil close to the bottom of the lime-treated layer, where tensile stresses exceed the tensile strength of the untreated soil. The shrinkage crack is less likely to develop through lime-treated soil, which has increased fracture toughness. The combination of geogrid reinforcement and lime treatment offers the most benefit for the control of dry-land longitudinal cracking. In a pavement with a lime-treated layer, the best place to install the geogrid is at the interface between the lime-stabilized layer and the untreated natural soil. If using a geogrid with high stiffness, the Mode I stress intensity factor may be reduced to a certain level that is lower than the fracture toughness of the pavement material.