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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-077
Date: July 2013


Composite Behavior of Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil Mass

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Through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Every Day Counts initiative, geosynthetic reinforced soil (GRS) was distinguished apart from traditional mechanically stabilized Earth technology. The separation is based on the reinforcement spacing, with GRS referred to as alternating layers of closely spaced (≤ 12 inches (300 mm)) geosynthetic reinforcement and a compacted granular fill material. The close reinforcement spacing increases the soil-geosynthetic interaction, leading to full composite behavior. This study investigated the composite behavior of GRS.

A major finding of this study was a new method to evaluate the required reinforcement strength based on the results of full-scale plane strain testing conducted at FHWA’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. This semi-empirical equation was subsequently selected by FHWA for inclusion in the new internal stability design method presented in the Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil Integrated Bridge System Interim Implementation Guide.(1) The methodology and testing that led to this new design equation are presented in this report, along with further documentation regarding the composite behavior of GRS and the new FHWA GRS design method.

Jorge E. Pagán-Ortiz
Director, Office of Infrastructure
Research and Development


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.


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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration