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Geotechnical Engineering


Checklist and Guidelines for Review of Geotechnical
Reports and Preliminary Plans and Specifications

Table 1 Project Review Guidelines

The following project review guidelines are given to assist FHWA generalist engineers in determining what type and size projects may warrant review by a FHWA geotechnical specialist.

A FHWA geotechnical specialist should review Geotechnical reports and supporting data for major or unusual geotechnical features, described below. The FHWA division office should also request FHWA geotechnical specialist review for any project that is considered to involve geotechnical risk or excessive expense in its design or construction. Supporting data for these reviews include preliminary plans, specifications, and cost estimates (if available at the time of geotechnical report submittal). Emphasis will be placed on review of these projects in the preliminary stage in order to optimize cost savings through early identification of potential problems or more innovative designs. To be of maximum benefit geotechnical reports and supporting data should be forwarded for review as soon as available, and at least 60 days prior to the scheduled project advertisement date. The review by the FHWA geotechnical specialist should be completed within 10 working days.

  1. "Major" Geotechnical Features

    Geotechnical reports and supporting data for major geotechnical project features should be submitted to the FHWA geotechnical specialist for review if the following project cost and complexity criteria exist:

        Cost Criteria
    1. Earthwork  - soil or rock cuts or fills where (a) the maximum height of cut or fill exceeds 15 m (50 ft), or (b) the cuts or fills are fills are located in topography and/or geological units with known stability problems. Greater than $1,000,000
    2. Soil and Rock Instability Corrections - cut, fill, or natural slopes which are presently or potentially unstable. Greater than $ 500,000
    3. Retaining Walls (geotechnical aspects) - maximum height at any point along the length exceeds 9 m (30 ft). Consideration of bidding cost-effective alternatives and geotechnical aspects (bearing capacity, settlement, overturning, sliding, etc.) are of prime concern. Structural design of and footings is beyond the scope of these reviews. Greater than $ 250,000

  2. "Unusual" Geotechnical Features

    Geotechnical reports and supporting data for all projects containing unusual geotechnical features should be submitted to the FHWA geotechnical specialist for review.

    An unusual geotechnical project feature is any geotechnical feature involving:

    • difficult or unusual problems, e.g. embankment construction on a weak and compressible foundation material (difficult) or fills constructed using degradable shale (unusual);
    • new or complex designs, e.g. geotextile soil reinforcement, permanent ground anchors, wick drains, ground improvement technologies; and
    • questionable design methods, e.g. experimental retaining wall systems, pile foundations where dense soils exists.
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Updated: 02/20/2015

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration