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Site Investigation Manual - 2002

Chapter 2 Feasibility Studies

2.
2.1

FEASIBILITY STUDIES
General

In order to place the object of this section in a broader context, the typical content of a feasibility study is briefly summarized as follows: General economic study and basic assumptions and parameters (such as road functional classification) Traffic studies, vehicle operating costs, etc. Visual survey Collection of general and technical documentation Preliminary definition of the road alignment Preliminary cost estimate Recommendations regarding economic and technical feasibility

It is important to keep in mind the goals of the feasibility study during the soils and materials investigations, because significant savings in the overall costs of the project can be achieved at this early stage by a good cooperation and exchange of information between the various disciplines of design. The feasibility study should be conducted in two steps: in the office first, then on site. The study can be conducted either by a geologist or a geotechnical engineer (provided they have a fair knowledge of both disciplines as they apply to road design and construction) or by a team of both in coordination. 2.2 2.2.1 Review of Existing Documents MATERIALS

In the office, the geologist (or geotechnical engineer) will utilize existing documents (geological maps, soils maps, topographical maps, aerial photographs). He will produce a map at a convenient scale (consistent with the available documents) showing the limits of the geological formations and the indications relative to materials (either from photographs or from the documentation collected). In collaboration with the engineer responsible for the road alignment, he will superimpose the tentative alignments, identify the probable stream crossings, and, as far as practicable, estimate limits of the major cut and fill sections of the future earthworks. This aspect is essential to the soils and materials component of the feasibility study, since it represents proportionally a major part of the geotechnical activities together with a visual reconnaissance in situ.
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The main goal is to participate in the selection of possible road alignments and to facilitate the choice among these possible alignments. The activities include a definition of the limits between geological formations and a general evaluation of the geotechnical characteristics associated with each geological formation. All sources of information regarding past investigations and other relevant existing documents, whether published or not, should be actively researched. This information should be sought from public or private agencies. Records useful to soils and materials investigations may be available from various sources even though the primary purpose of these past activities was not directly related to geological or geotechnical fields (e.g. hydrology, agricultural, or mining purposes). Logs of test pits or results of laboratory testing can be found which are extremely valuable to the geotechnical engineer. All existing reports, topographical maps, geological and soil maps, in conjunction with aerial photographs of the route corridor, memoirs, records of mineral resource surveys, engineering soil maps, and any relevant data concerning the project road need to be collected, reviewed and compiled. This helps in proper planning of the field investigations and avoids duplications. This also allows an identification of existing and potential new sources for road building materials prior to commencement of the field investigations. It is essential that sufficient information on the characteristics and availability of road construction materials is collected at this early stage (i.e. the feasibility study) so that feasible options for pavement construction or strengthening may be formulated. Equally important is the collection of information derived from nearby or adjacent past road construction projects or reconnaissance (including in particular subsurface investigations), and an assessment of the conditions of execution and the performance of existing road works. Records from ERAs PMS (Pavement Management System) Branch should be collected and reviewed to check the performance of existing roads in the vicinity of the project area. Valuable information can also be gained from photo-interpretation. 2.2.2 GEOLOGY

Geological events, in particular the intense volcanic activity associated with the formation of the Rift Valley, in which successive lava flows have built up to an altitude of more than 2000m to form the Central Highlands, are responsible for Ethiopias geology. These lavas were subsequently eroded into a mass of plateaus and gorges that now constitute the headwaters of several great rivers. Ethiopia has a very diverse geology, but the rock formations tend to be consistent over large areas. The Geological Survey of Ethiopia (Ministry of Mines) should be contacted for maps and geological information, including a geological map of Ethiopia dated 1972. The reference lists selected references of maps of interest (3, 4, 5 and 6). ERAs library and TCDE (Transport Construction Design Enterprise) are also good sources of information.

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Chapter 2 Feasibility Studies

2.2.3

CLIMATIC ZONES

Moisture and temperature have a major influence on a pavements performance as the stiffness and strength of subgrade soils and granular materials vary with moisture and temperature. Data regarding the climate prevailing locally (and in particular rainfall data) should be collected at this stage. Elements in this regard may be found for instance in the National Atlas of Ethiopia (see Ref. No. 5) and local agencies should be consulted for project specifics. The Ministry of Water Resources has data from several rainfall stations, and these have been used in compiling a Rainfall Map in Chapter 5 of the Drainage Design Manual. This data and the resultant map indicate that Ethiopia can be divided into several zones, including: Dry and hot zones in the eastern regions A large moderate zone Several wet and cool zones, mainly at high altitudes Additional rainfall data may be obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority. 2.2.4 TOPOGRAPHY

Ethiopia has four main topographic regions: Lowlands (mainly in the eastern regions, from below sea level to 500 meters above sea level, with isolated hills) Broad nearly flat areas of inland drainage, including the swamps near the Djibouti border Plateau Mountains

Topographic maps at a scale of 1:50,000 are available for certain areas of the country; at other locations, such mapping is available only at a scale of 1:250,000. 2.2.5 VEGETATION

The vegetation of Ethiopia is characterized by large areas of savannah, grassland and cultivation. Forests and woodlands remain in several locations at higher elevations, and bushland and thicket are in evidence at lower elevations. A land use map is included in the National Atlas of Ethiopia. 2.2.6 LAND REGIONS

While maps exist of the geology, relief, and rainfall of the whole country, little information is presently available in regards to soils types and mapping. In this environment, it is invaluable to have an interim map of the land regions to provide a basis for further investigations. Using the above-mentioned maps and an analysis of Landsat satellite imagery, ERA and TRRL have conducted studies (Ref. 8) to broadly classify the country into 67 land regions (the study included Eritrea) based on relatively uniform climate,
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geology, topography, and soils. The map pertinent to site investigations is reproduced as Figure A-1 in Appendix A. In addition, the report also lists the surface materials of Ethiopia as belonging to eight (8) broad engineering categories, as reproduced below:

Table 2-1: Engineering Categories of Soils in Ethiopia Rock, rock Large areas of Ethiopia have no weathered soils at all, only rock debris at the debris and surface. Rock, rock debris and lithosols have been combined into one group, since the difference between a very thin soil and no soil at all is marginal to the engineer. lithosols

Oxisols

Brown Soils Vertisols

Quartzitic Mineral Soils Aridsols

A lithosol is defined here as any in situ soil less than 0.5m thick, overlying rock that may be hard or soft, weathered or unweathered. Lithosols account for about one quarter of the area of Ethiopia. It should be noted that all rocks, even those in a soft and highly weathered state, are separated from true unconsolidated materials, i.e. materials that have never been indurated, and grouped together in this category. However, they are separately indexed under rock type, and further subdivided into four states and four depths of weathering, for the purpose of determining an appropriate method of excavation. At present, this materials group is undifferentiated, but it may be necessary to recognize, say, lava surfaces, gravel fans, residual desert pavements, etc, at a later date. The oxisols are characterized by the extreme weathering of the minerals, resulting in a concentration of compounds of iron, aluminum and silica in the profile, and frequently by their deep weathering and red color. They are concentrated in the wet southwest part of the country. It may be necessary to break them down further, for instance to separate the ferruginous tropical soils, with good differentiation into horizons and the typical development of an iron-rich horizon over a leached zone, from the ferrisols, with their poor horizonation and deep profiles The brown soils are normally 1-2m deep and characterize the volcanic Central Highlands. The degree of weathering is not so intense as in the oxisols, and the brown soils are generally shallower. The vertisols are characterized mainly by the predominance of expansive clay minerals (montmorillonite) in the soil, which swell during the wet season and shrink and crack in the dry season. They are the well-known black cotton soils. As with the previous groups, experience may show that it is desirable to recognize more than one type, perhaps according to the mode of occurrence (e.g.- expansive black clay plains, and local occurrences in depressions). Brown mineral soils that are developed on granitic and crystalline metamorphic rocks. They are usually about 1-1.5m deep, and are usually sandy and/or gravelly in texture (quartz level). a) Coarse. Brown sandy soils or silty clay soil of low plasticity, with typically many coarse (gravelly) quartz particles. b) Fine. Reddish silty clay, typically sandy. The aridisols are typical of arid and semi-arid lands. They are generally brown or light brown in color, they may be shallow or deep, and they are frequently stony. Their extent covers perhaps one-fifth of the area of Ethiopia. This extremely broad group should properly be broken down into profiles with textural distinctions, but present information is insufficient to do so.
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Organic Soils Drift Deposits

The organic soils, although probably of relatively small extent in Ethiopia, generally require special treatment and have been recognized separately. They have been divided into the hydromorphic soils, with or without an organic topsoil over a mottled subsoil (associated with local areas of poor drainage), and peat. Drift deposits are transported materials of recent of sub-recent age. They may be of any texture, since any of the transporting agents may have operated in moving them. Some common drift deposits are alluvium (deposited by rivers, lacustrine silts (lakes), sand and loess (wind) and talus (scree) (gravity). Such materials are generally uncommon.

Though these classifications give a general idea about the soils in a particular area, they are no substitute for specific field investigations. The summaries of land regions from Ref. 8 give information on several parameters affecting road design, including rainfall, geology, landscape, altitude, relief, drainage density, drainage pattern, and soils. These summaries are presented in Appendix A. 2.2.7 OFFICE STUDY STEPS

The steps of the office study are as presented below: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 2.3 Investigate all sources of information regarding past investigations and other relevant existing documents. Investigate logs of past test pits and results of past laboratory testing. Collect geological maps, soils maps, land use maps, topographical maps and aerial photos, and climate maps. Produce a map at a convenient scale showing the limits of the geological formations and the indications relative to materials. Select possible road alignments and to facilitate the choice among these possible alignments. Superimpose the tentative alignments and the probable stream crossings on the produced map. As far as practicable, estimate limits of the major cut and fill sections of the future earthworks. Field Reconnaissance

Following a thorough study of available documentation in the office, field reconnaissance is necessary. The field reconnaissance should focus on covering visually the entire length of the proposed alignment before concentrating on detailed locations. The reconnaissance team should preferably include local road maintenance personnel.

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The primary goals of the field reconnaissance are to: Verify the assumptions made regarding the limits of geological formations Confirm the indications relative to sources of materials identified during the office review Identify in general terms potential problem areas (e.g. embankments on compressible soils, expansive soils, deep or potentially unstable cuts, major rock excavations, etc.) Define practical means of detailed field investigations If possible and as required, conduct limited probes and sampling to assess the general characteristics of homogeneous soils areas and to identify particular problem areas (e.g. rock cuts, fill sections on compressible soils, slope stability, etc.).

This field reconnaissance should be coordinated, to the extent possible, with topographical surveys in order to facilitate the work of the geotechnical personnel and to help make the result of their work more accurate. Simultaneously with the field visual reconnaissance or shortly thereafter, a preliminary pavement design is desirable in order to assess the possible solutions and the approximate needs for pavement construction materials in view of a comparison with the apparent availability of such materials. 2.4 Foundations of Structures

During the feasibility study, the study of the minor drainage structures will be limited to a list of locations with approximate dimensional characteristics. During the visual survey insitu, relevant descriptions and observations will be sufficient, without specific tests. For major bridge structures, however, it is advantageous to initiate preliminary studies as soon as possible and even at the stage of the feasibility study. These preliminary studies may include geophysical tests, light probes and a field reconnaissance by a geologist. Materials investigations for structure foundations are covered in more detail in Chapter 4.

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