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Geotechnical Laboratory



During the 1970s, a series of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) studies determined that various segments within the field of highway geotechnology needed significant improvement in design and construction applications. This was especially important considering that bridge foundations, retaining wall systems, cut and fill operations, embankments, and ground improvements account for more than 50 percent of the total cost of most highway construction projects. It was, therefore, imperative that accurate and rational guidelines be developed for geotechnical-related design and construction applications to ensure safe and efficient highway structures. The following link contains a summary report of past FHWA research activities in bridge foundations, ground improvement, and soil and rock behavior.

Other pertinent past research topics and activities of the geotechnical research team is the development of the deep foundation database, Automated Geotechnical Information and Design System (AGIDS), National Geotechnical Experimentation Sites (NGES), geotechnical risk and reliability, and in situ soil testing.

Most recently, a large focus of the geotechnical program has been to investigate Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) for load-bearing applications and the use of GRS to build the Integrated Bridge System (IBS). Based on the research conducted at FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC), many inservice bridges have been and continue to be constructed around the country. The proven performance of those bridges led to the selection of GRS-IBS technology for the Every Day Counts initiative. The following link contains information about the GRS-IBS:

Other current research includes characterizing aggregates, evaluating advanced geotechnical monitoring technologies and the inservice performance of bridges, and deformation analysis of shallow foundations. Future work will continue to advance the state-of-the-art in all facets of geotechnical engineering.