Variability in Pavement Design

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This paper presents the results of a review on variability of key pavement design input variables (asphalt modulus and thickness, subgrade modulus) and assesses effects on pavement performance (fatigue and deformation life). Variability is described by statistical terms such as mean and standard deviation and by its probability density distribution.

The subject of reliability in pavement design has pushed many highway organisations around the world to review their design methodologies, mainly empirical, to move towards mechanistic-empirical analysis and design which provide the tools for the designer to evaluate the effect of variations in materials on pavement performance. This research has reinforced this need for understanding how the variability of design parameters affects the pavement performance.

This study has only considered flexible pavements. The sites considered for the analysis, all in the UK (including Northern Ireland), were mainly motorways or major trunk roads. Pavement survey data analysed were for Lane 1, the most heavily trafficked lane. Sections 1km long were considered wherever possible.

Statistical characterisation of the variation of layer thickness, asphalt stiffness and subgrade stiffness is addressed. A sensitivity analysis is then carried out to assess which parameter(s) have the greater influence on the pavement life.

The research shows that, combining the effect of all the parameters considered, the maximum range of 15th and 85th percentiles (as percentages of the mean) was found to be 64% to 558% for the fatigue life and 94% to 808% for the deformation life.

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