Simplified laboratory assessment of subgrade performance parameters for mechanistic design of pavement foundations

With the increasing agenda for sustainability, the UK is attempting to move away from the empirical design of pavement foundations to develop a performance specification approach to facilitate analytical design. For analytical design the measurement of the subgrade performance parameters of resilient modulus and resistance to permanent deformation are required. These parameters ideally need to be assessed concurrently under loading and environmental conditions similar to those the materials will experience in the field. To date, measurement of these parameters is largely confined to research laboratories using cyclic triaxial testing with advanced on sample strain measurement. This apparatus is considered too complicated for routine commercial use, hence this potentially limits the implementation of laboratory performance evaluation for routine pavement foundation design. A previous program of cyclic triaxial testing on clay subgrades indicated a series of useful correlations between strength and permanent deformation behavior (via a threshold stress), and material resilient modulus at this threshold. This paper reviews the previous work and utilizing these correlations presents data from tests on three different clay materials performed to develop simplified equipment and procedures for the routine measurement of the required design parameters. It is shown that simple pseudo-static tests can measure a subgrade modulus for a simplified performance based design. It re-evaluates the previous data (in the light of the recent work) to show a boundary correlation that may allow a shear strength based parameter to control (in design) the onset of permanent deformation, and details how long-term subgrade water content changes can be accommodated.