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Mid-America Transportation Center

Geosynthetic Reinforcement to Protect Underground Pipes against Damage from Construction and Traffic

Final Report
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Researchers

  • Principal Investigator: Jie Han (jiehan@ku.edu (785)864-3714)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Robert Parsons (rparsons@ku.edu (785)864-2946)
  • Project Status
    Complete
    About this Project
    Brief Project Description & Background
    The objective of this research is to assess incidences of distracted drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists at highway-rail grade crossings using data collected in the field and provide guidance on countermeasure strategies. Distractions for highway users have increased over the past decade due to widespread availability of electronic gadgets that allow owners to listen to music, talk, text, and use the Internet while on the road. Significant research emphasis has been on distracted drivers however, pedestrians and bicyclists are also susceptible, especially at highway-rail grade crossings where mistakes could easily result in fatalities.

    A total of 2,397 highway-rail grade crossing collisions were reported in 2008, resulting in 286 deaths and more than 900 injuries. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) statistics show that in 78 of these vehicle-train collisions, the cause was listed as "highway user inattentiveness", resulting in 14 deaths and 117 injuries. Other FRA statistics show that in 488 grade crossing crashes, vehicles ran into trains already present at the crossings. Of those crashes, more than 60 percent were at crossings equipped with either gates or flashing lights, while just over 33 percent occurred at crossings with either stop or crossbuck signs. Although these crashes may have multiple causes, distracted driving appears to be a contributing factor.

    A highway-rail crossing located in Fremont, NE will be studied for distracted drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists by using observers in the field and a video recording system. Additional data will be gathered by surveying a sample of the grade crossing users. This location already has the needed electric power while a new camera and digital video recorder will be installed. Collected data will be analyzed for instances of distracted usage of the crossing by drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The results will provide information for the development of an informed strategy on reducing distracted usage of grade crossings.
    Research Objective
    The objective of this proposed research is to determine the level of protection provided to a flexible pipe by a geosynthetic layer. The proposed hypotheses are: the geosynthetic reinforcement over a buried pipe will reduce the stresses and strains in a flexible pipe, caused by a penetrating (simulating excavation during construction) or dynamic surface load (simulating traffic).
    Potential Benefits
    The successful completion of this research can advance the technology of using geosynthetic reinforcement to protect underground pipes, and potentially help engineers develop an economic and effective system that can avoid catastrophes.
    Abstract
    More than 5,000 significant pipe incidents happened in the United States from 1999 to 2009 that resulted in fatalities, injuries, and significant property damage and loss. Of those serious incidents 25 percent were caused by excavation damage. Therefore, protection of underground pipes against damage from construction and traffic are important and necessary. Unfortunately, no effective method is available so far. This proposed research is to develop a technology using geosynthetic reinforcement to protect underground pipes (either existing or new pipes) against damage from construction or traffic. The geosynthetic reinforcement is laid across the trench between the surface and the top of the pipe.

    The objective of this proposed research is to determine the level of protection provided to a flexible pipe by a geosynthetic layer. The proposed hypotheses are: the geosynthetic reinforcement over a buried pipe will reduce the stresses and strains in a flexible pipe, caused by a penetrating (simulating excavation during construction) or dynamic surface load (simulating traffic). This research objective will be pursued at the CEAE Department at the University of Kansas using the large-scale geotechnical test box (3 m long x 2 m wide x 2 m high). In this research, the following factors will be investigated: (1) type of backfill in trench (sand and gravel), (2) type of surface cover (sand and gravel); (3) mechanical properties of geosynthetic, (4) depth of geosynthetic, and (5) type of loading (penetrating and cyclic loading). Earth pressure cells, displacement transducers, and strain gauges will be installed around or on the pipe and the geosynthetic to investigate the effects of the above influence factors.

    The successful completion of this research can advance the technology of using geosynthetic reinforcement to protect underground pipes, and potentially help engineers develop a system that can avoid catastrophes.
    Project Amount
    $ 60,279