2 PDH Professional Development Advertising Section — CONTECH Construction Products Inc.
bottomless or three-sided culvert is a variationof well-known culvert configurations such as thebox culvert and the arch. Bottomless culverts canhave a span ranging from 1.5 feet to more than35 feet. The difference is that in place of a hard surface(typically concrete) floor, the culvert bottom is the naturalstream bed material. Advantages to this are a more environ-mentally congruous stream path, as well as typically lower construction costs. The engineer’s concern then becomesplanning for how the natural stream bed will react to theconstruction of the culvert during all flow regimes andwhat protective measures might be necessary to protect theculvert from scour or aggradation. A preliminary study should be done in the area of theproposed culvert to determine local site characteristics.It is important to know whether the stream is aggradingor degrading in the reach. Aggradation/degradation is along-term process that does not include cutting and fillingthat may occur during temporary, high-flow events. Whenconsidering aggradation or degradation, the engineer mustconsider the planned life of the bridge in addition to thepresent state of the stream reach. This means assessinglong-term changes to the watershed resulting from natu-ral processes or human activities. Changes can includeconstruction of a dam or reservoir upstream or downstreamof the reach, modifications in watershed land use such aslogging or urban development, and stream channeliza-tion. Government agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the U.S. Geological Survey, and other local, state, and federal agencies should be contacted for any documentation they may have of long-term stream-bed elevation changes. If there is no existing data or thedata is of insufficient quality, make an assessment using theprinciples of river mechanics, considering all relative influ-ences on the bridge’s crossing.HEC-18, Evaluating Scour at Bridges, outlines a three-stepprocedure in to determine long-term aggradation and degra-dation. The three-level approach consists of the following:
Level 1 — a qualitative determination based on generalgeomorphic and river mechanics relationships,
Level 2 — an engineering geomorphic analysis usingestablished qualitative and quantitative relationships toestimate the probable behavior of the stream system tovarious scenarios or future conditions, and
Level 3 — physical models or physical process computer modeling using mathematical models such as BRI-STARSand the Corps’ HEC-6 to make predictions of quantitativechanges in streambed elevation due to changes in thestream and watershed.Methods to be used in Levels 1 and 2 are presented inHEC-20 and Highways in the River Environment (HIRE).Once the long-term characteristics have been ascertained,the decision to build a bottomless culvert must be re-evalu-ated to decide if it is the best choice. Provided the decisionis made to move forward, the engineer must determine
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First, review the learning objectives below, thenread the Professional Development Series article. Next,complete the quiz and submit your answers to theProfessional Development Series sponsor. Submittalinstructions are provided on the Reporting Form, onpage PDH 7. Your quiz answers will be graded by theProfessional Development Series sponsor. If you answer at least 80 percent of the questions correctly, you willreceive a certificate of completion from the ProfessionalDevelopment Series sponsor within 90 days and will beawarded 1.0 professional development hour (equivalentto 0.1 continuing education unit in most states).
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Readers should gain an understanding of how toevaluate general and local scour of a streambed thatcould affect the design, construction, and performanceof a bottomless (three-sided) culvert. In addition, readersshould learn about types of scour countermeasures andresources to use when selecting appropriate devices.
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Scour in Bottomless Culverts
By Bryan N. Scholl and Christopher I. Thornton, Ph.D., P.E.