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Mid-America Transportation Center

Crashworthy Foundations for Soil-Embedded Roadside Safety Hardware


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Principal Investigator
Joshua Steelman
PI Contact Information
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided
USDOT: $122,152
NDOT/AKDOT: $229,636
Total Project Cost
$ 351,788
Agency ID or Contract Number
Start Date
End Date
Research Objective
The objective of this MATC-funded research effort is to develop reliable computational soil modeling, enabling cost-effective crashworthy foundation design for soil-embedded roadside safety hardware. The project is particularly focused on weak, loose, and saturated soils or site conditions. Optimized foundations for luminaire poles in soft, saturated soils should provide reliable breakaway behavior for the luminaire pole with only minor permanent movement of the foundation.
Potential Benefits
This project will allow luminaire pole foundations to be more cost-effectively designed, thereby freeing resources for redistribution to improve safety elsewhere in state agencies’ transportation networks. Additionally, the findings from this research will be applicable to other similar soil-embedded roadside safety hardware.
Brief Description of Research Project
Luminaire pole foundations in weak, soft soils are typically installed with deep foundations because the soils are believed to be too weak to resist vehicle impact forces. However, designing the foundation as though the crash load is constant for an indeterminate amount of time ignores the potentially beneficial reality of a short term impulse load. A foundation may be pushed into surrounding soil for a fraction of a second during an impact, and then recover to its original position after the luminaire pole has broken away. This research seeks to provide improved understanding of these types of crash phenomena and the response of soil-embedded elements, particularly those surrounded by weak, wet soils. Ultimately, this improved knowledge will translate into crashworthy foundations that are cheaper and easier to install, benefiting workers installing them and the traveling public.
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation
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Modal Orientation
  • Environment
  • Safety and Human Performance