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Mid-America Transportation Center

Enhanced Sustainability of Railroad Ballast


Researchers

  • Principal Investigator: Robert Parsons (rparsons@ku.edu (785)864-2946)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Jie Han (jiehan@ku.edu (785)864-3714)
  • Graduate Students
  • Milad Jowkar
  • Project Status
    In Progress
    Sponsors & Partners
  • Kansas Department of Transportation
  • University of Kansas
  • About this Project
    Brief Project Description & Background
    Railroads require continuous supplies of crushed stone for use as ballast to maintain tracks. Under the repeated loading of rail traffic, this stone is degraded through crushing and through upward migration of fines from soft subgrades below. For this project a full scale section of track will be constructed with ballast that is reinforced with geosynthetics to evaluate the improvement in the durability of the ballast and reductions in track deformation that occur with reinforcement.
    Research Objective
    The first objective of the research is to identify the magnitude of the potential benefit of geosynthetic reinforcement of railroad ballast. The second objective is to identify the type of geosynthetic that is most effective and to identify the depth of placement where it will be most effective.
    Potential Benefits
    The potential benefits of reinforcement of ballast is that it will enable the stone to last longer, which will reduce the demand on quarries for new stone and reduce the time and money required for maintenance. It also may enhance safety by stiffening the foundation of the track, which will reduce movement of the track under loading and should result in a more stable track.
    Abstract
    Railroads require continuous supplies of crushed stone for use as ballast to maintain tracks. Under the repeated loading of rail traffic, this stone is degraded through crushing and through upward migration of fines from soft subgrades below. Geosynthetics have been used intermittently for a number of years to reduce migration of fines and provide some improvement in strength, however controlled laboratory research on this topic is limited, particularly with respect to North American construction practice. It is proposed that a full scale rail section 12 feet in length be constructed at the University of Kansas beneath an existing load frame capable of full scale cyclic loading of the rail section. This rail section will be constructed over a soft clay subgrade without geosynthetics and with geosynthetic reinforcement to evaluate the benefits of geosynthetics for rails constructed over soft ground.
    Project Amount
    $ 79,650
    Modal Orientation
  • Railroad
  • Rural Transportation
  • Technology Transfer Activities
    Railroads require continuous supplies of crushed stone for use as ballast to maintain tracks. Under the repeated loading of rail traffic, this stone is degraded through crushing and through upward migration of fines from soft subgrades below. For this project a full scale section of track will be constructed with ballast that is reinforced with geosynthetics to evaluate the improvement in the durability of the ballast and reductions in track deformation that occur with reinforcement.