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Topic 9: Curves transition curves

Definition A transition curve differs from a circular curve in that its radius is always changing. As one would expect, such curves involve more complex formulae than the curves with a constant radius and their design is more complex.

Because circular curves are easier to design compared to transition curves and they are easily set out on site, the question that naturally arises is to why are transition necessary and why is it not possible to use circular curves to join all intersecting straights? The need for Transition Curves Circular curves are limited in road designs due to the forces which act on a vehicle as they travel around a bend. Transition curves are used to introduce those forces gradually and uniformly thus ensuring the safety of passenger. Transition curves have much more complex formulae and are more difficult to set out on site than circular curves as a result of the varying radius.

Radial Force and Design Speed Radial forces act on a vehicle as it travels around a curve and this is why transition curves are necessary A vehicle of mass m, travelling at a constant speed v, along a curve of radius r, is subjected to a radial force P such that:

mv 2 P= r
This force acting on the vehicle is trying to push the vehicle back on a straight course. On a straight road where r = , P = 0. Roads are designed according to a design speed which is constant for a given stretch of roadway. Thus a vehicle must be able to comfortable and safely travel the length of a given stretch of road at the design speed regardless of bends etc. The mass of a vehicle is also assumed constant and consequently:

1 P r

Thus the smaller the radius of a curve the greater the radial force acting on the vehicle. Any vehicle leaving a straight section of road and entering a circular curve of radius r will immediately experience the full radial for P. If the radius is too small and the thus P too large, the vehicle will skid off the roadway or overturn.

Transition curves are curves in which the radius gradually changes from infinity to a particular value R. The effect of this is to gradually increase the radial for P from zero to its maximum value, thereby reducing its effect. To introduce P uniformly along the length of the transition curve, P must also be proportional to the length of the transition curve l. Therefore:

1 P r



Combining the two requirements:


1 l r

rl = K
Where K is a constant. Therefore for each transition in a transition curve the radius R and length LT can be designed to equal to K over the whole length of the curve.

The use of Transition Curves Transition curves can be used to join to straights in one of two ways: - Composite curves - Wholly transitional curves Composite Curves

Here transition curves of equal length are used on either side of a central circular arc of radius R.

Wholly Transitional Curves

A wholly transitional curve consists of two transitional curves of equal length with no central arc. The radius of this curve is constantly changing and therefore the force is constantly changing. There is only one point Tc (the common tangent point) at which P is a maximum. This means wholly transitional curves are safer than composite curves. However, they cannot always be fitted between to straight due to minimum radius requirements.

Superelevation Although transition curves can reduce the effect of radial force on a vehicle this can also be further reduced or even eliminated by raising one side of the road relative to the other. The difference in height between the two sides of the road is known as the superelevation (SE).

In theory, by applying enough superelevation the resultant force can be made to act perpendicular to the surface of the road pushing the vehicle down rather than throwing it off.

mv 2 / R v 2 tan = = mg gR


SE = B tan

Therefore: Bv 2 Maximum theoretical superelevation, SE max =

, where v is in m/s


The maximum SE occurs where the radius r = R, along the central arc of a composite curve or at Tc on a wholly transitional curve.

In practice for roadways with high design speeds, wide carriageways or small radii, SEmax could be very large and would be alarming to drivers approaching it and dangerous with reduced speeds. Therefore the following best practice rules are generally applied: Superelevation shall normally balance out only 45% of the radial force P (i.e. SE = 0.45(Bv2/gR)). In rural areas superelevation shall not exceed 7% (1 in 14.5 and wherever possible, radii should be chosen such that superelevation is kept within the desired value of 5% (1 in 20) In urban areas, superelevation shall not exceed 5% The minimum allowable SE is 2.5% (1 in 40) to allow for drainage Expressing v in kph and R in metres and substituting gravity for 9.81m/s2 gives:

Bv 2 Maximum allowable SE = 282.5 R

Transition Curve Design Standards The British standard for designing the radii of transitional and circular curves depending on speed and superelevation is:

Types of Transition Curve There are two types of curved used to form the transitional section of a composite or wholly transitional curve. These are: -The clothoid -The cubic parabola For a transition curve the equation rl = K must apply i.e. the radius must reduce in proportion to the length. This is the property of a spiral and one curve which has this property is the clothoid. Another common curve derived from the clothoid is the cubic parabola which is not a spiral i.e. rl is not always constant. However it can be used over a certain range and is less complex than the clothoid.

The clothoid

the equation of the clothoid can be derived from the above diagram, which shows two points close together (M and N) on a transition curve of length LT: is the deviation angle between the tangent at M and the straight TI is the tangential angle to M from T with reference to TI x is the offset to M from the straight TI at a distance y from T l is the length from point T to any point M on the curve (not shown) l is the length along the curve from M to N l is the angle subtended by the arc l of radius r


l = r (chord length), rl = K is required and substituting 1/r = (l/K)

l l K Integration gives + constant. But when l = 0, , so constant = 0

l2 (in radians) = 2K
At the end of a transition r= R and l = LT, giving K = rl = RLT. This gives:

l 2 (in radians) = 2 RLT

This is the basic equation of the clothoid. If its conditions are satisfied and speed is constant radial force will be introduced uniformly.

The Cubic Parabola

The cubic parabola is not a true spiral and cannot always be used. It approximates very close to a spiral, however, and can be used within a certain range of deviations angle. In practice it is much easier set out a cubic parabola than a clothoid and hence it is more commonly used where appropriate.

The offset x is given by:

l3 x= 6K



Substituting y = l in the expression for x gives

y3 x= 6K

K = rl = RLT
It follows that:

y3 x= 6 RL T

The length of a Transition Curve Required to Minimise Passenger Discomfort Transition curve lengths must be designed so that they minimise passenger discomfort and maximise safety. Consider the curve below:

At any point the radial force

mv 2 P= r

but since force = mass x acceleration the radial acceleration at any point is:

v2 c= r

i.e. the faster the change in radius the faster change in c and therefore the faster radial force is introduced resulting in passenger discomfort and safety risks.

Design standards recommend a maximum value of c of 0.3m2/s, above which passenger discomfort takes place. The transition curve length LT can be determined from c as follows:

v3 LT = cR

(where v is in m/s)

The Shift of a Cubic Parabola In order that the tangent lengths can be calculated a parameter known as the shift must also be calculated.


LT = VG 24 R

VF =

S = FG 2

Tangent Lengths and Total curve Lengths In order for a composite cure to move vehicles through the deflection angle each transition curve must them through a further deflection max.

The tangent lengths are obtained as follows: IT = IV + VT = IW + WU = IU And

L IT = ( R + S ) tan + T 2 2

The Total curve length Ltotal is given by:

Ltotal = 2 Lt + LCA

LCA = 0 LCA = R( 2 max )

Setting out composite and wholly transitional curves The centre line provides an important reference on site from which other features can be established and it can be set out either by traditional or coordinate methods. Setting out using the tangential angles method Setting out for tangential curves is similar to the method used for circular curves. This is the most accurate of the traditional methods and it can be used for any transition curve. It is undertaken using a theodolite and a tape and, as with the circular curves method it is necessary to first set out the intersection point I. The method by which this is done is identical to that used for circular curves. Once the intersection point has been fixed, tangent points T and U

The entry and exit transition curves

I1 is chosen as a chord length such that it is R/20, where R is the minimum radius of curvature 1 is calculated from l1 using 1 = (l21 /6 RLT )(180/) A theodolite is set at T, aligned to I with a reading of 00 0000 and 1 is turned off A chord length of l1 is measured from T and lined in at point A using the theodolite. A peg is driven into the ground at this point and a nail in this is used to locate A.

The entry and exit transition curves

l2 is the distance around the curve from T to B. (l22 / 6 RLT )(180 / ) degrees 2 is calculated from l2 using 2 = 2 is set on the horizontal circle of the theodolite A chord length (l2 l1 ) is measured from A and lined in at point B using the theodolite. A peg with a nail is used to locate B This procedure is repeated for all subsequent setting out points up to the common tangent point T at the end of the entry transition curve.

Setting out the pegs on the exit of a transition curve The exit transition curve is set out from U to T2 with the theodolite set at U and aligned to I such that the horizontal circle is reading 00 0000. The tangential angles are the subtracted from 360to give the required directions. As for the entry transition curve, sub-chords are usually required at the beginning and end of the exit transition curve to ensure that pegs are placed at exact multiples of through chainage. If a wholly transitional curve is being set out, the common tangent point between the two transition curves is set out again, having already been fixed at the end of the entry transition curve. The difference between the two gives a measure of the accuracy of the setting out.

Setting out the central circular arc This only applies to composite curves since wholly transitional curves have no central circular arc. The central circular arc is normally set out from T1 to T2 and it is first necessary to establish the line of the common tangent at T1. The next fig shows the entry transition curve and part of the central circular arc in which the final tangential angle for T toT1 will be max = max / 3

Move the theodolite to T1, align back to T with the horizontal circle reading 00000 180 (2max / 3) The common tangent along T1N now corresponds to 00 on the theodolite. Rotate the telescope in azimuth until a reading of 00 0000 is obtained and set out pegs on the circular arc from T1 to T2 using the tangential angles circular curves. Again, initial and final sub-chords are normally required to ensure that pegs are located on the centre line at exact multiples of through chainage. Finally, point T2, the second common tangent point is established. Since T2 is also fixed when setting out the exit transition curve from U, the difference between its two positions gives a measure of the accuracy of setting out. In practice, the tangential angle and chord data are tabulated ready for use on site.

Setting out using offsets from the tangent lengths This method is similar to that described for circular curves and again requires that the tangent points have been set out. Two tapes are required and the method is best used for setting out short transition curves, since accurate taping becomes more difficult as the curve gets longer. In the case of a wholly transitional curve, the entry transition curve is set out from the tangent point on the entry straight and the exit transition curve is set out from the tangent point on the exit straight. The next figure shows part of a cubic parabola transition curve. To set out any point Z on the curve, the method involves choosing y and calculating x using . For a complete curve, x and y values should be tabulated for x = y 3 / 6 RLT use on site. In the case of a composite curve, the entry and exit transitions are set out in the same way as those for a wholly transitional curve and the central circular arc is then set out by offsets from the long chord.

Setting out using coordinate methods The two traditional methods of establishing the centre lines of composite and wholly transitional curves have been described. Although these methods are still used, they have been virtually superseded for all major curves by coordinate methods that use control networks. In such methods, which are equally applicable to transition curves and circular curves, the coordinates of points at regular intervals along the centre line are calculated with reference to a site control network. The points are then pegged out on site either using a total station set at points in the ground control network surrounding the scheme as shown in the next Figure.

These can also be set out by using a GPS receiver. In both cases the coordinates of points to be fixed on the centre line and the coordinates of the control network being used must be based on the same site coordinate system. Nowadays, the coordinate calculations involved are usually done within computer software highway design packages and results of such computations are normally presented in the form of computer printouts ready for immediate setting out use on site. The following table details a computer printout of the information required on the previous curve. .

The curve is to be set out by bearing and distance from control points 7, 8 and 9 with a total station, each centre line point being established from one control point and checked from another. The calculations required to produce this table are as follows. The coordinates of the control points are found from the control survey data. The horizontal alignment is designed and the coordinates of the intersection and tangent points are calculated. Assuming that the centre line is to be pegged at exact multiples of through chainage, chord lengths and tangential angles are calculated for the entry and exit transition curves and the central circular arc. The coordinates of the points to be established on the centre line are calculated using the chord lengths, tangential angles and the coordinates of the intersection and tangent points. Control points which are visible from and which will give a good intersection to the proposed centre line are found and the bearings/distances are calculated from the control points to the centre line points.

Coordinate methods compared with traditional methods When compared with the traditional methods of setting out from the tangent points, coordinate methods have a number of important advantages. However, they are not always appropriate and some of the relative merits of the two categories of technique are listed below. -Coordinate methods can be carried out by anyone who is capable of using a station or a GPS receiver. Since the data is in the form of either bearings distances or coordinates, no knowledge of curve design is necessary. This is not the case with traditional methods. -The increased use of highway design computer software packages in which the setting out data is presented ready for use in coordinate form has produced a corresponding increase in the adoption of such methods. -The widespread use of computers has also greatly speeded up the calculation procedures associated with coordinate methods, which were always perceived to be more difficult to perform by hand when compared with those associated with the traditional methods.

-Coordinate methods enable key sections of the centre line to be set out in isolation, such as a bridge centre line, in order that work can progress in more than one area of the site. -Obstacles on the proposed centre line, which may be the subject of disputes, can easily be by-passed using coordinate methods to allow work to proceed while arbitration takes place. Once the obstacle is removed, it is an easy process so establish the missing section of the centre line. This is not usually possible with traditional methods. -Coordinate methods have the disadvantage that there is very little check on the final setting out. Large errors will be noticed when the centre line does not take the designed shape, but small errors could pass unnoticed. In the tangential angles method, checks are provided by locating common tangent points from two different positions. -Although the widespread use of total stations and the increasing use of GPS receivers on sites encourages the use of coordinate techniques, such equipment may not always be available and it may be simpler to use traditional methods that work along the centre line. This will particularly be the case where minor cur1e are being set out, such as those used for roads on housing estates, kerbs at roof intersections, short curves and boundaries.

Plotting the centre lines of composite and wholly transitional curves Despite the widespread use of computer plotting facilities, there are still occasions during the initial horizontal alignment design when it is necessary to undertake a hand drawing of the proposed centre line. For composite and wholly transitional curves the following procedure is recommended. It assumes that there is an existing plan of the area available. 1. Draw the intersecting straights in their correct relative positions on a sheet of tracing paper. 2 Calculate the length of each tangent using IT = IU = ( R + S ) tan( / 2) + LT / 2 3 Plot the tangent points by measuring this distance along each straight on either side of the intersection point at the same scale as the existing plan. 4 To plot the entry and exit transition curves, use the offsets from the tangent x= 3 lengths. Use y / 6 RLT to prepare a table of offset values x for suitable y values and ensure that the y values chosen will provide a good definition of the centre line.

5 At the scale of the existing plan, plot the x and values on the tracing paper from the tangent lengths to establish points on the entry and exit transition curves as shown in the next Figure.

6 To plot the central circular arc (where appropriate), carefully join the plotted ends of the entry and exit transition curves. This is the long chord of the central circular arc. 7 Measure the offsets from the long chord method, prepare table of offset X values for appropriate Y values. Again, ensure that the Y values chosen will provide a good definition of the centre line.

8 At the scale of the existing plan, plot the X and Y values from the long chord w establish points on the centre line of the centre circular arc. 9 Carefully join all the points plotted to define the complete centre line. A set & French curves is useful for this purpose, although with care a flexicurve can be used. 10 Superimpose the tracing paper on the existing plan and decide whether or not the design is acceptable. If it is not, change the design and repeat the plotting procedure.

Examples On a proposed road having a design speed of 100 kph and a carriageway width of 7.30 m, a composite curve consisting of two transition curves and a central circular arc of radius 750 m is to join two intersecting straights having a deflection angle of 09 3428. The rate of change of radial acceleration for the road is to be 0.3 m s-3. The superelevation should be introduced at a rate of no more than 1%. -Calculate the amount of superelevation that must be built into the central circular arc. -Check that the transition curves are long enough for the superelevation to be introduced. Calculate the amount of superelevation that should be constructed along the entry transition curve at 20 m intervals from the entry tangent point.

1. The amount of superelevation that must be built into the central circular arc

Bv 2 maximum allowable SE = 282.8R 7.30*1002 = 282.2*750 = 0.344m then to express this as a % v2 1002 s%= = = 4.71% 2.828 R 2.828*750
The radius of 750m is greater than the desirable min value of 720m for a 100kph SE of 4.71% is less than the value of 5%. Hence the 0.344m SE should be built into the central circular arc.

Checking that the transition curves are long enough The length of each transition curve required for comfort and safety is obtained equation

v3 1003 LT = 3 = 3 = 95.26m 3.6 cR 3.6 *0.3*750

The superelevation value of 0.344 m must be introduced and removed over a of 95.26 m, which represents a gradient of

0.344 = 0.36% 95.26

Since this is less that the maximum allowable rate of introduction of 1%, the transitions are long enough.

The amount of SE that should be constructed along the entry transition curve at 20m intervals from the entry tangent point.

rl = K = RLT K = 95.26*750 = 71, 445 At 20m along the curve from entry tangent point K 71, 445 r= = = 3572.25m 20 20 (7.30*1002 ) SE at 20m along the curve = = 0.07 m (282.8*3572.25) 1002 s % at 20m along the curve = = 0.99% 2.828*3572.25

Because this is less than the min allowable value of 2.5% for drainage, a value of 2.5% must be used therefore SE built at 20m along the curve = 2.5% of B = 0.025 * 7.30 = 0.18m