Evaluating Paved and Unpaved Road Design and Product Research

by Bryan Gee, P.E., on October 26, 2020


The mechanisms governing roadway performance are complex. Because roads are designed for long service lives under varying conditions, differences in performance which may seem small at first can be magnified over time and lead to premature failures. Diligent civil engineers and contractors can lower these risks by relying on quantitative data from laboratory and field tests to support their designs and select the right materials.

The level of expertise required to properly conduct performance testing on both paved and unpaved roads is significant, and even those with extensive experience in this area need to be extremely diligent to make sure the data they publish and the conclusions they reach are valid. It’s critical that researchers follow established protocols such as those published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Beyond this, a thorough understanding of how materials such as geosynthetics actually work within pavement structures, and repeated studies to replicate results, are essential. When testing generates results which don’t align with prior research and accepted design methods, it is the responsibility of the researchers to understand why and explain the variation.

Even engineers who design pavements on a regular basis are rarely experts in performance validation testing protocols and data analysis. So it’s helpful to have a greater understanding of what goes into proper testing and what to look for when assessing the validity of test results you may be asked to review and evaluate.

Whether we are building gravel-surfaced haul roads over soft subgrades or heavy-duty pavements, the design of roads for longevity and performance relies on empirical methods.  As we continue to develop and introduce new technologies and materials to improve performance, it is critical to properly conduct the testing required to ensure that our projects will perform as designed and deliver the longevity we need. Our recent webinar on research and performance testing standards discusses the requirements for valid testing in order to support proper road design with accepted methods. Topics covered include:

  • Empirical design methods and the need for performance validation testing
  • Fundamentals of test setup and execution
  • Understanding the relevance of material properties for design and quality control
  • Published standards for accelerated pavement testing

Click the button below to watch now. You'll also earn 1 PDH credit for completing the session.

Webinar:Research and Performance Testing Standards