Resilient Modulus Properties of New Jersey Subgrade Soils

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CAIT project no.: FHWA NJ 2000 001

Fiscal Year: 1999/2000

Status: Final

Rutgers-CAIT Author(s): Thomas Bennert, Nenad Gucunski, Ali Maher

External Author(s): Walter J. Papp Jr., Mueser-Rutledge Consulting Engineers, Anthony Chmiel



To effectively and economically design pavement systems, subgrade response must be evaluated. Understanding the importance of subgrade soil response to various loading conditions, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) established and refined a Standard Test Method for Determining the Resilient Modulus of Soils and Aggregate Materials. Mechanistic design methods for flexible pavements require the specification of subgrade resilient modulus. The resilient modulus is measured under laboratory conditions that should reflect the conditions the subgrades are prepared and subjected to in the field.

In this study, a laboratory-testing program was developed to determine the resilient modulus of typical New Jersey subgrade soils. A total of eight soils were tested at different molded water contents to determine their sensitivity to moisture content and cyclic stress ratio. Repeated loading or pumping of the pavement system may induce excess pore water pressure within the subgrade layer whereby reducing the resilient modulus, leading to the premature failure of the pavement system.

A sensitivity analysis was conducted using an elastic layer computer program to demonstrate the effect of subgrade stiffness on the design thickness of the asphalt layer. As expected, the subgrade stiffness has a dramatic effect on the eventual thickness of the asphalt layer.

Laboratory results were used to calibrate a statistical model for effectively predicting the resilient modulus of subgrade soils at various moisture contents and stress ratios. This model will prove to be a valuable tool for pavement engineers to effectively and economically design a pavement system.