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Geotechnical Engineering


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

Table 4 - Correction of Soil and Rock-Related Instabilities

Each year hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to correct soil or rock-related instabilities on highways. The purpose of this technical note is to advise field engineers what technical support information is essential such that a complete evaluation can be performed. For the purpose of this technical note, soil and rock-related instabilities are defined as follows: "A condition that currently or threatens to affect the stability or performance the stability or performance of a highway facility and is the result of the inadequate performance of the soil or rock components." This includes major instabilities resulting form or associated with: landslides, rockfalls, sinkholes, and degrading shales. Technical support data needed are:

  1. Site plan and typical cross-section(s) representing ground surface conditions prior to failure, along with subsurface configuration after failure. Photographs, including aerials, if available, would also be beneficial.

  2. Cross-section(s) showing soil and/or rock conditions and water bearing strata as determined by drilling and possibly geophysical surveys.

  3. Description of the latent state of the unstable mass, whether movement has stopped or is still occurring, and if so, at what rate.

  4. Boring logs.

  5. Instrumentation data and/or other information used to define the depth and location of the failure zone. The underground location of the failure zone should be shown on the cross-section(s).

  6. Shear strength test data and a description of the testing method utilized on the materials, through which failure is occurring. Where average shear strength is calculated using an assumed failure surface and a factor of safety of 1.0, the complete analysis should be provided and location of assumed water table(s) shown.

  7. Proposed corrective schemes including: estimated costs, final safety factors, and design analysis for each alternative solution.

  8. Narrative report containing instability history; record of maintenance costs and activity, and preventative measures taken, if any; reasons for inadequacy of the original design; description and results of subsurface investigation performed; summary and results of stability analysis performed; and recommendations for correction.

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Updated: 02/20/2015

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration