American Society of Civil Engineers

Development of a New Mechanistic Index to Predict Pavement Performance during Spring Thaw

by Guy Doré, Ph.D., (Professor, Civil engineering department, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada G1K 7P4 E-mail: and Cedric Imbs, (Graduate student, Civil engineering department, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada, G1K 7P4)

pp. 348-359, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Cold Regions Engineering: Cold Regions Impacts on Transportation and Infrastructure
Abstract: In northern climates, frost action is a major cause of pavement deterioration. It is well known that freezing temperatures in frost susceptible subgrade soils cause the pavement to heave. The resulting displacement imposed to the pavement can be substantial, reaching 100 to 200 mm in severe cases. When spring thaw occurs, segregated ice melts generating high pore pressures in frost susceptible subgrades. The bearing capacity loss can be substantial, leading to important structural damage to pavement exposed to severe and uncontrolled loading conditions. Considerable research efforts have been devoted to the characterization of soils and material properties and their variation as a function of moisture and temperature variations. These research initiatives are typically conducted in the field using deflexion measurements or in the laboratory using cyclic triaxial testing. The use of these research results typically requires assessing seasonal fatigue damage using analytical techniques to compute stresses and strains at critical location in pavement structures and empirical damage models. A new approach based on a mechanistic index is proposed. The index is taking into consideration the amount of water accumulated by the freezing process, the rate of thawing in pavement layers and in the subgrade soil and the rate of consolidation of the pavement structure. The paper will describe the theoretical development of the new index and will present correlation between the index and the characteristics of observed weakening (intensity and duration) during spring thaw.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Freeze and thaw
Frost heave