U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
The Geotechnical Laboratory is used to study the material properties of soil and the interactions between soil and structural elements such as steel, concrete, geosynthetics, or timber that are used for bridge foundations and retaining wall systems. Testing is also performed to calibrate numerical models for finite element modeling.
The Geotechnical Laboratory consists of a standard indoor testing facility and several unique outdoor testing facilities. New materials and methods of design and construction are tested and evaluated in both indoor and outdoor environments to determine their applicability and to identify opportunities for improvement. In addition, instrumentation is installed in the field to monitor and evaluate performance of bridges, pavements, and slopes.
|Figure 1. Large-Scale Direct Shear Device.|
|Figure 2. Strength Testing of
|Figure 3. Large Diameter Triaxial Device.|
|Figure 4. Frictional Connection Testing: Side View.|
|Figure 5. Frictional Connection Testing: Top-Down.|
|Figure 6. Calibration Reaction Assembly.|
|Figure 7. Evaluation of Pressure-Sensor Technology.|
|Figure 8. Standard Direct Shear Device.|
One of the outdoor laboratory facilities consists of two test pits that are 18 feet wide, 23 feet long, and 18 feet deep. The pits can be filled with various soil types for modeled shallow or deep foundation experiments and have also been used to conduct full-scale wall experiments and to test the tension capacity of ground anchors. The pits have reinforced concrete walls, sump pumps to control water-table levels, and anchorage systems to provide reaction loads for experiments.
The pits have a separate building to store the load-test equipment and a control room for the data-acquisition systems.
|Figure 9. Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE)
Shoring Wall Experiment
|Figure 10. Helical Anchor Tensile Tests|
The laboratory includes two additional outdoor test sites where full-scale bridge piers, abutments, and retaining wall structures were constructed for research and testing purposes. The following are a few examples of full-scale experiments in these locations to illustrate the capabilities of Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) to lead the advancement of the state of the art.
|Figure 11. Geosynthetic Reinforced
Soil (GRS) Test Pier
|Figure 12. Prototype Geosynthetic Reinforced
Soil -Integrated Bridge System (GRS-IBS)
|Figure 13. Long-Term Performance of GRS Test Piers|
The Geotechnical Laboratory has an outdoor strong floor that is also available for the construction and testing of full-scale geotechnical features on a rigid concrete platform. The spacing of the anchorage locations is 3 feet by 3 feet, each with a 300 kip capacity—similar to the Structures Laboratory—for the capability of a variety of load fixtures and arrangements.
Figure 14. Outdoor Strong Floor
|Figure 15. National Cooperative Highway Research Program
(NCHRP) 12-59 Experiment on the Strong Floor
|Figure 1. Long-Term Performance of GRS Abutments with Various
Geometries on the Outdoor Strong Floor.
The geotechnical laboratory also calibrates many different types of typical and advanced geotechnical instrumentation and develops data acquisition systems for installation in the field. Recent installations have included pressure cells, strain gauges, tactile pressure sensors, in-place inclinometers, and survey targets. Various projects, including evaluation of bridge abutments and monitoring of pavement and slope conditions, are currently underway.
|Figure 2. Pressure cell installation in Sheffield, MA.|
|Figure 3. Installation of automated MEMS-based accelerometer
sensors and piezometers in Denali National Park, AK.
|Figure 4. Solar powered remote data acquisition system in
St. Lawrence, NY.
|»||Office of Infrastructure R&D|
|»||Infrastructure R&D Program|
|»||Infrastructure R&D Experts|
|»||Infrastructure R&D Laboratories|
|»||Infrastructure R&D Projects|
|»||Infrastructure R&D Publications|
|»||Infrastructure R&D Topics|
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296
|»||2011 FHWA Infrastructure Research and Technology Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives|
|»||Federal Highway Administration Office of Infrastructure|
|»||Pavement and Materials Discipline|
|»||Bridges and Structures Discipline|