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Strategies to Address Technical Needs of Narrow Pavements at the Network and Project Level Management


Narrow pavements can be results of either historical projects that were not built to standards suitable for the modern day traffic, or the reduction in pavement width due to accumulation of layered materials from multiple overlays. The affected roads are typically left with partial shoulders or no shoulder at all. As pavements age and need more overlays, the portion of the network having substandard surface widths increases. The issue leads to concerns with safety of the travelling public in situations that vehicles may leave the paved surface and causing loss of controls. State/provincial transportation agencies with larger amount of rural highways on their networks are particularly affected.

Ideally once the pavement width is reduced to a critical level, grade-widening would be done. However, grade-widening projects often involve other construction works in addition to grading and paving, such as culvert lengthening, drainage system upgrading and intersection improvements, etc. As a result the average unit cost of grade-widening is much higher than that of pavement rehabilitation. Moreover, many of the narrow roads were built more than 40-50 years ago, and many roadside developments may have happened over the time. The cost of land acquisition for the addition right of way can be more than the cost of the project itself. This will lead to even bigger financial challenges for public transportation agencies.

A recent study on the best practices to widen flexible narrow pavements was sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation in 2013 (Report No. FHWA/TX-14/0-6748-2). While this report provides tools for carrying out related projects after the widening decision has been made, little research has been conducted on the decision making process at the network level to address technical needs of narrow pavements, or on treatment selection at the project level. The alternatives can range from extensive grade-widening in one end, to reverting to gravel surface at the other extreme, as well as other possible treatments in between, based on the degree of deterioration and structural condition of the pavement.


To develop strategies addressing technical needs of narrow pavements at the network and project level management. The output of the study would be a guideline document that helps the decision-making process for transportation agencies.

Sponsoring Committee:AKT10, Pavement Management Systems
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Wei He
Date Posted:02/10/2016
Date Modified:12/22/2016
Index Terms:Width, Pavement design, Rural highways, Pavement widening, Decision making, Alternatives analysis, Texas Department of Transportation, Strategic planning,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Planning and Forecasting

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