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Infrastructure Improvements within Challenging Soils


In many areas of Western Canada, infrastructure construction occurs in areas of undesirable native
materials. Concerns such as yielding or friable soils, differential consolidation, subsurface wetland
charging, intense freeze thaw cycles, and variable subsurface water levels create substantial
challenges for construction. Undeniable changes in the climate are also creating concerns that
affect the performance of transportation assets which should be addressed as part of a full life cycle
analysis. As an example, in northern Alberta regular freeze thaw cycles are a normal and anticipated
condition. These concerns are typically accounted for in design, material selection and construction
practices. However, in recent years there have been instances where the full design life is not being
achieved which may partially be attributed to previously unpredicted changes to the climate.

This paper & presentation will discuss advancements in the areas of design, material management,
product selection and construction practices which are intended to effectively meet these needs.
Topics will include parameters such as analysis of phreatic surfaces, circular failures and finite
elements. Discussion will include construction material considerations including the use of
different soil types for various applications and the use of engineered products such as structural
geogrids and geotextiles which may be used to separate materials and increase overall material
strengths. In addition, these concepts will be tied into the Climate Change theme by suggesting
ways to mitigate these concerns. A case study will be reviewed; the grading and paving work
completed on Range Road 183 in Yellowhead County which included construction over significant
lengths of deep muskeg with several drainage and pipeline crossing concerns. This type of terrain,
once avoided at all costs, often caused significant route selection concerns. However, with proper
consideration and analysis of the soils and materials, use of advanced products and proven, effective construction methods, roads and other infrastructure assets may now be successfully built within areas that were previously not considered suitable.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Testing and Modeling of Roadway/Embankment Materials and Geotechnical Engineering
Newman, Glenn
Campbell, Brent
Soils and materials