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Mid-America Transportation Center

Evaluation of Dowel Bar Inserter Practices in PCC Pavements with Magnetic Tomography Technology

Final Report
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  • Principal Investigator: Yong Rak Kim ( (402)472-1727)
  • Project Status
    Sponsors & Partners
  • Nebraska Department of Roads
  • Abstract
    Dowel Bar Inserters (DBI) are automated mechanical equipment that position dowel bars in Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) after concrete is placed. Compared to the alternative approach, which is using dowel baskets, DBIs offer advantages in cost and speed of construction. However, as dowel bars are not anchored to the subgrade similar to dowel baskets, there is a concern about the quality of dowel placement using this equipment. Improper placement of dowel bars can lead to reduced load transfer between slabs, which results in pavement distresses such as faulting and spalling at joints.

    To determine the accuracy of dowel placement by DBI, the Nebraska Department of Roads has used an MIT Scan-2 device to scan the joints in projects where a DBI was used. This device uses a nondestructive magnetic imaging technique to capture the position of dowel bars inside the pavement. The aim of the this project is to analyze the MIT Scan-2 data of the joints constructed using a DBI, and to compare them with the corresponding field performance data. This will allow us to judge if DBI is a reliable alternative for dowel placement, and to improve Nebraska’s current specifications for dowel placement tolerances.

    To meet the objectives, the MIT Scan-2 data of scanned joints were initially compared with dowel placement specifications suggested by national agencies. It was observed that the longitudinal translation and rotation of dowels in a portion of scanned joints fell outside recommended tolerances. The longitudinal and vertical translation of the dowels were respectively higher and lower than the average values reported by a similar study (Khazanovich et al. 2009). MIT Scan-2 data and field performance data were then compared to find any linkage between pavement distresses and dowel misalignment levels, enabling us to potentially improve Nebraska’s current specifications as well as conclude if any of the distresses were caused by low placement accuracy of the DBI. No linkage was found between pavement performance and dowel misalignment levels for over 220 joints that were investigated in this study. No transverse cracking was observed during field investigation, and the spalling at joints was likely to be the result of joint saw-cut operations. However, measured distress from joints with missing or completely shifted dowels show that high severity dowel misalignment has an adverse effect on joint performance.