Predicting in-service fatigue life of flexible pavements based on accelerated pavement testing
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Pavement performance prediction in terms of fatigue cracking and surface rutting are essential for any mechanistically-based pavement design method. Traditionally, the estimation of the expected fatigue field performance has been based on the laboratory bending beam test. Full-scale Accelerated Pavement Testing (APT) is an alternative to laboratory testing leading to advances in practice and economic savings for the evaluation of new pavement configurations, stress level related factors, new materials and design improvements. This type of testing closely simulates field conditions; however, it does not capture actual performance because of the limited ability to address long-term phenomena. The same pavement structure may exhibit different response and performance under APT than when in-service. Actual field performance is better captured by experiments such as Federal Highway Administration's Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) studies. Therefore, to fully utilize the benefits of APT, there is a need for a methodology to predict the long-term performance of in-service pavement structures from the results of APT tests that will account for such differences. Three models are generally suggested to account for the difference: shift factors, statistical and mechanistic approaches. A reliability based methodology for fatigue cracking prediction is proposed in this research, through which the three models suggested previously are combined into one general approach that builds on their individual strengths to overcome some of the shortcomings when the models are applied individually. The Bias Correction Factor (BCF) should account for all quantifiable differences between the fatigue life of the pavement site under APT and in-service conditions. In addition to the Bias Correction Factor, a marginal shift factor, M, should be included to account for the unquantifiable differences when predicting the in-service pavement fatigue life from APT. The Bias Correction Factor represents an improvement of the currently used "shift factors" since they are more general and based on laboratory testing or computer simulation. By applying the proposed methodology, APT performance results from a structure similar to an in-service structure can be used to perform four-point bending beam tests and structural analysis to obtain an accurate estimate of the necessary Bias Correction Factor to estimate in-service performance.