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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 362

Effects of Pavement Conditions on Effective Structural Number of In-Service Pavements

Karthik Dasari1, Saman Salari1, David J. Osborn1, Mostafa A. Elseifi2, Kevin Gaspard3

ABSTRACT: Pavement structural number (SN), which is an important property used in the
design of new and rehabilitated pavement systems, may be calculated based on Falling Weight
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Deflectometer (FWD) deflections. The objective of this study is to investigate the relationship
between pavement distresses as performance indicators, pavement condition indices, and the
effective structural number of in-service pavements calculated from FWD testing. 50 pavement
sections were tested in Louisiana using FWD to assess their structural capacity. Pavement
performance was assessed in terms of cracking, rutting, and roughness as well as the Pavement
Condition Index (PCI) as an overall performance indicator. Based on this analysis, the
coefficient of variation (COV) in SN calculations in the 50 pavement sections was very high and
ranged from 14 to 63% with an average COV of 35%. Results of the statistical analysis
conducted in this study showed that Asphalt Concrete (AC) thickness, alligator cracking, IRI,
and base thickness were the most significant factors influencing the effective structural number
of a pavement section. In contrast, rutting and patching caused no significant effect on the
calculated structural number. For most of the sections, SN showed good correlation to the AC
modulus when the individual locations were compared with low moduli in areas where SN
values were relatively low. However, poor correlation was observed when the average SN was
correlated with the average AC modulus for the pavement sections.

1
Graduate Research Assistant,Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Louisiana State University,
3526c Patrick Taylor Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803
2
Lloyd Guillory Distinguished Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 3526c
Patrick Taylor Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803; email: elseifi@lsu.edu
3
Senior Pavement Research Engineer, Louisiana Transportation Research Center, Louisiana State University
4101 Gourier Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70808;email: kevin.gaspard@la.gov

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 363

Introduction
Non-destructive deflection testing is one of the most reliable methods to assess the structural
conditions of in-service pavements (Shahin 2005). The Falling Weight Deflectometer (FWD) is
widely recognized as an effective tool for pavement structural evaluation. In the FWD test, a
stationary dynamic load is applied to the pavement surface and deflections are measured via
specially designed deflection sensors with a high level of accuracy. The applied load produces
an impact load with duration of 25-30 msec, which corresponds to a wheel velocity of 80 km/hr
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in the upper layers. Surface deflections are measured and recorded by seven (or more)
geophones at various distances from the loading point (Ullidtz 1987).
A number of deflection basin parameters (e.g., radius of curvature, spreadability,
deflection ratio, etc.), which are functions of deflection values at one or more sensors, are used to
check the structural integrity of in-service pavements. A more sophisticated analysis may also
be performed by backcalculating the layer moduli based on the multi-layer elastic theory given
the thickness and Poissons ratio of each layer (Elseifi, et al. 2011). A recent survey reported
that 90% of state highway agencies that collect FWD data conduct a backcalculation procedure
to estimate pavement layer moduli (NCHRP Synthesis 2008).
Pavement Structural Number (SN) is a concept that was introduced in the AASHTO
Design Guide to describe the ability of a pavement to withstand traffic and environmental
loading throughout its service life (AASHTO 1993). In the rehabilitation of existing pavements,
the 1993 AASHTO Design Guide provides a method to estimate the effective SN based on FWD
deflections. This approach relates the effective SN to the pavement total thickness, the effective
modulus of all pavement layers above the subgrade, and the subgrade resilient modulus.
Deflections from the FWD test method are also used to estimate the effective pavement modulus
and the subgrade resilient modulus. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) laid
guidelines for using pavement deflections at network level analysis. Performance models were
introduced for roughness, rutting and fatigue based on structural performance (Stubstad, et al.
2012).
It is generally recognized that the pavement effective SN provides an accurate
representation of the conditions of in-service pavements in terms of cracking, roughness, and
rutting as well as the thicknesses of the pavement layers. In general, a high SN would be
measured for pavements with greater layer thicknesses and/or with little or low severity surface
distresses. However, the relationship between SN and the performance measures of in-service
pavements has not been reported in the literature. The objective of this study is to investigate the
relationship between pavement distresses as performance indicators (i.e., cracking, roughness,
and rutting), pavement condition indices, and the effective structural number of in-service
pavements calculated from FWD testing. To achieve this objective, 50 pavement sections were
tested in Louisiana using FWD to assess their structural capacity. Pavement performance was
assessed in terms of cracking, rutting, and roughness as well as the Pavement Condition Index
(PCI) as an overall performance indicator.
Background
Structural Evaluation Using FWD
FWD applies a stationary dynamic load, which is similar in magnitude and duration to a single
heavy wheel load. The load pulse generated by dropping a weight is transmitted to the pavement

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through a 300 mm diameter circular load plate (Gedafa, et al. 2008). The deflected surface
profile, commonly known as deflection basin, is used in various applications including assessing
the structural capacity of pavements for design, rehabilitation, and pavement management
(NCHRP Synthesis 2008). The AASHTO 1993 design uses the effective structural number to
provide a quantification of the remaining structural capacity of the pavement and its ability to
carry future traffic loading. It is calculated based on the following equation (AASHTO 1993):

SN eff = 0.0045D (E p)1/3 (1)


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where,
SN eff = effective structural number,
D = total thickness of the pavement layers, and
E p = effective pavement modulus of all layers above the subgrade.

To estimate the effective pavement modulus based on FWD deflection testing, the following
relationship is used (AASHTO 1993):
1
1-
D 2
1+
MR d0 1 a
=1.5 + Ep (2)
qa 2
D 3 Ep MR
1+
a MR

where,
Ep = effective modulus of all pavement layers above the subgrade (psi);
d0 = deflection measured at the center of the load plate adjusted to a standard temperature of
68F (in);
q= FWD load plate pressure (psi);
a = FWD load plate radius (in);
D = total thickness of pavement layers above the subgrade (in); and
MR = subgrade resilient modulus (psi).

The subgrade resilient modulus is related to the deflection away from the center of the load based
on the following relationship (AASHTO 1993):
(0.24P)
MR = (drr)
(3)

where,
MR = backcalculated subgrade resilient modulus (psi);
P = applied load (psi); and
dr = deflection at a distance r (in) from the load (in).

Evaluation of the AASHTO equation reported that it is lacking accuracy due to the fact that
Equations (1) to (3) are based on Burmisters two layer theory, which assumes infinite linearly
elastic subgrade and lays over stiff layers or bedrock (Rohde 1994). To this end, other methods
have been suggested in the literature to calculate the effective structural number (SNeff) from
FWD deflection data (Romanoschi and Metcalf 1999) (Rohde 1994). For instance, it may be

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estimated by considering the concept of Structural Index of Pavement (SIP) based on the
following relationship (Rohde 1994):
SNeff =k 1 SIP k2 Hpk3 (4)
where,
SIP = structural index of pavement (SIP = d0 d1.5Hp);
d0 = center deflection;
d1.5Hp = deflection measured at an offset of 1.5 times Hp;
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Hp = total pavement thickness (mm); and


k1, k2, and k3 = fitting coefficients.

The Louisiana Pavement Management System


The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) Pavement
Management System (PMS) maintains an extensive database that contains pavement distresses
and performance data for each state highway. Pavement performance data are available in the
LADOTD pavement management system for the period ranging from 1995 to 2009. The PMS
data are based on pavement condition measurements that are collected once every two years
using the Automatic Road Analyzer (ARAN) system that provides a continuous assessment of
the road network. Conditions of the pavement are assessed using cracking, rutting, roughness,
and patching. In addition, video crack surveys are collected once every two years and are
available for each state highway in Louisiana. Collected data are reported every 1/10th of a mile
and are analyzed to calculate the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) on a scale from zero to 100.
The PCI varies from 95 to 100, 85 to 94, 65 to 84, 50 to 64, and 49 or less for very good, good,
fair, poor, and very poor roads, respectively. A number of threshold values are also used to
trigger a specific course of maintenance and rehabilitation (M&R) actions (Khattak, et al. 2008).
For flexible pavements, the PCI is calculated as follows:

MIN (RNDM, ALCR, PTCH, RUFF, RUT)


PCI=MAX (5)
AVG (RNDM, ALCR, PTCH, RUFF, RUT) 0.85 STD (RNDM, ALCR, PTCH, RUFF, RUT)

where,
RNDM = random cracking index expressed in a scale from 0 to 100 with 100 representing the
case with no random cracking;
ALCR = alligator cracking index expressed in a scale from 0 to 100 with 100 representing the
case with no fatigue cracking;
PTCH = patch index expressed in a scale from 0 to 100 with 100 representing the case with no
patch;
RUFF = roughness index expressed in a scale from 0 to 100 with 100 representing the case with
a smooth pavement (IRI (in/mile) = (100 - RUFF) * 5 + 50;
RUT = rutting index expressed in a scale from 0 to 100 with 100 representing the case with no
rutting; and
STD = standard deviation.

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 366

Field testing
FWD Testing and Thickness Measurements
Fifty in-service pavement sections located in District 5 of Louisiana were tested. Nondestructive
FWD deflection testing was conducted to measure the structural capacity of the pavement layers
and subgrade. Deflection testing was performed in accordance with ASTM D 4694, Standard
Test Method for Deflections with a Falling Weight-Type Impulse Load Device and D 4695,
Standard Guide for General Deflection Measurements. The FWD device was configured to
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have 9-sensor-array with sensors spaced at 0, 203, 305, 457, 610, 914, 1219, and 1524 mm from
the load plate. FWD testing was conducted at an interval of 0.1 mile in the right wheel path.
Three load levels of 40, 53, and 66 kN were used in the FWD deflection-testing program.
Pavement temperature was recorded in conjunction with each test. Testing was conducted in
December 2009. Surface deflections were corrected for variation in pavement temperature by
shifting the measurements to a standard temperature of 20C using the BELLS and the AASHTO
1993 methods. Layer thicknesses were measured using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)
surveys. Measured layer thicknesses were verified against extracted cores.
Analysis and Results
Statistical Analysis
The effective structural number was calculated for each pavement section using deflection data
measured at a load level of 40 kN according to Equations (1) to (3). Conditions of the pavement
were extracted from the Louisiana PMS for the survey conducted in 2009. Performance data
included cracking, rutting, roughness, and patching. Statistical analysis was conducted to
identify the most influential variables on the calculated structural number. A multi-linear
regression was performed at 95% confidence level. The results of the statistical analysis are
presented in Table 1. As shown in Table 1, results of the statistical analysis showed that AC
thickness, alligator cracking, IRI, and base thickness were the most significant factors
influencing the effective structural number of a pavement section. In contrast, rutting and
patching caused no significant effect on the calculated structural number

Table 1. Statistical Analysis of Results

Variable F value P-value Significance


AC Thickness 3.21 0.0026 Significant
Base Thickness 3.23 0.0025 Significant
Alligator Cracking -2.18 0.0350 Significant
IRI -2.62 0.0123 Significant
Patch 1.14 0.2617 Not Significant
Rut -1.59 0.1201 Not Significant
Random Cracking 2.54 0.0149 Significant

In general, results of the statistical analysis presented in Table 1 were expected since alligator
cracking is the main structural failure mechanism in flexible pavements and was found
significant. In addition, SN is directly proportional to the thicknesses of the pavement layers
(Equation 1) and is therefore, strongly influenced by AC and base thicknesses. It was also
expected that IRI would influence the calculated SN since it is an indicator of pavement

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 367

performance at the surface. However, it was expected that surface rutting and patching would
have an influence on the calculated SN as they are also indicative of structural deficiency
especially at the surface but they were found to be not statistically significant.

Structural Number (SN) versus Pavement Distresses


The individual relationships of pavement distresses such as IRI, alligator cracking, and random
cracking on in-service pavement structural number were investigated. Figure 1 illustrates the
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effect of pavement roughness on the effective SN. As shown in this figure, there is a downward
linear trend between pavement roughness expressed in IRI and SN.

9.00
y = -0.0202x + 6.4958
8.00
R = 0.53
7.00
6.00
SNeff

5.00
4.00
3.00
2.00
1.00
0.00
0 100 200 300 400
IRI (in/mile)

Figure 1. Structural Number (SN) versus International Roughness Index (IRI)

Figure 2 illustrates the relationship between PCI and the effective SN. As shown in this figure,
the improvement in pavement conditions as described by the PCI caused an increase in the
pavement structural number. The plot between SN vs. PCI was best described by an exponential
model with an R square of 0.31. However, there is significant scattering in the measurements.

10.00
y = 0.2108e0.0322x
8.00 R = 0.3092

6.00
SNeff

4.00

2.00

0.00
50 60 70 80 90 100
Pavement Condition Index (PCI)

Figure 2. Structural Number (SN) versus Pavement Condition Index (PCI)

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 368

Figure 3 (a and b) illustrates the relationship between Random Cracking Index, Alligator
Cracking Index, and the effective SN. As shown in this figure, there was no clear relationship
between cracking indices (alligator and random) and the calculated pavement structural number.
While it was expected to observe a strong relationship between structural number and alligator
cracking, data shown in Figure 3b did not show a clear trend between these two variables.

9.00 9.00
y = 0.0546x - 1.4924
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y = 0.0755x - 3.5274 R = 0.1001


6.00 R = 0.1138 6.00

SNeff
SNeff

3.00 3.00

0.00 0.00
60 70 80 90 100 60 70 80 90 100
Random Crack Index Alligator Cracking Index

(a) (b)
Figure 3. Structural Number (SN) versus (a) Random Crack Index and (b) Alligator
Cracking Index

Structural Number vs. Pavement thickness


The structural number in the design phase is calculated by the AASHTO Design Guide as
follows (AASHTO 1993):

SN = m x a x d (6)

where,
ai = structural layer coefficient of layer i;
hi = layer thickness of layer i; and
mi = drainage coefficients.

Based on Equation (6), there is a direct relationship between SN and layer thicknesses. Figure 4
and Figure 5 show the relationship between AC thickness, base thickness, and the effective
structural number. As shown in Figure 4, the increase in AC thickness was associated with an
increase in SN; however, there is significant scattering in the measurements resulting in a low R-
square. Results presented in Figure 5 show that the influence of base thickness on the calculated
SN was marginal and did not follow a clear trend. In general, when comparing the structural
number to the composition of the pavement, one would expect to observe an increase in SN with
the increase in the thicknesses of the pavement layers; however, very little was observed.

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 369

9.00
y = 0.2845x + 1.6857
8.00
R = 0.2294
7.00
6.00
5.00
SNeff 4.00
3.00
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2.00
1.00
0.00
0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0
AC thickness (inches)

Figure 4. Scatter Plot of SN versus AC thickness

9.00
8.00
7.00
6.00
SNeff

5.00
4.00
3.00
2.00 y = 0.1218x + 2.5911
R = 0.074
1.00
0.00
0 5 10 15 20
Base Thickness (inches)
Figure 5. Scatter plot of SN versus Base thickness

One possible explanation for the trends observed in Figures 1 to 5 and the observed scattering is
the influence of data variability in thickness and structural number calculations. Figure 6 and
Figure 7 presents the variability in structural number calculations for 25 pavement sections and
the variability in thickness measurements obtained from GPR for one typical section. As shown
in Figure 6, the Coefficient of Variation (COV) in SN calculations was very high and ranged
from 14 to 63% with an average COV of 35%. In addition, the COVs in AC and base thickness
measurements were 14% and 15%, respectively. The high level of variability in SN calculations
increased data scatterings in the relationships presented in Figures 1 to 5, which were based on
the average SN for each section. This high variability may also influence overlay design
calculations that are based on the average effective SN for a pavement section.

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 370

70.00

Coefficient of Variation (%)


60.00
50.00
40.00
30.00
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20.00
10.00
0.00
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10111213141516171819202122232425
Section ID
Figure 6. Coefficients of Variation in SNeff Calculations

40.00
30.00
Thickness
(in)

20.00
AC
10.00 base
0.00
0.1 0.3 0.6 0.9 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.9 2 2.1 2.2 2.3
Stationing Logmiles

Figure 7. Thickness Variations in One Typical Section

Backcalculation of Layer Moduli and Its Relation to Structural Number


FWD-deflection data were used to backcalculate the layer moduli using Elmod 5.0
backcalculation software. Deflection data obtained from FWD files and thickness data obtained
from GPR were inputted in the software for each pavement section. Calculated layer moduli
were correlated with the effective SN calculated in each pavement section as well as the
performance data extracted from PMS. Figure 8 shows the variation of SN with PCI, IRI, and
AC modulus for a typical section. As shown in this figure, SN showed good correlation to the
AC modulus when the individual locations were compared, with low moduli in areas where SN
values were relatively low. This behavior stood true for most of the individual sections when
each location with a SN value was considered. However, poor correlation was observed when
the average SN was correlated with the average AC modulus for the pavement sections (R2 =
0.001).

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 371

9.00 350
SN AC
8.00 300
7.00
Structural Number

AC Modulus (ksi)
250
6.00
5.00 200
4.00
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150
3.00
100
2.00
1.00 50

0.00 0
0.1 0.3 0.6 0.9 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.9 2 2.1 2.2 2.3
Logmile

Figure 8. SN versus PCI, IRI and AC Modulus for sample Section 1

Summary and Conclusions


The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between pavement distresses as
performance indicators, pavement condition indices, and the effective structural number of in-
service pavements calculated from FWD testing. To achieve this objective, 50 pavement
sections were tested in Louisiana using FWD to assess their structural capacity. Based on the
results of this analysis, the following conclusions may be drawn:
The COV in SN calculations in the 50 pavement sections was very high and ranged from 14
to 63% with an average COV of 35%. This high variability may influence overlay design
calculations that are usually based on the average effective SN for a pavement section.
Results of the statistical analysis conducted in this study showed that AC thickness, Alligator
Cracking, IRI, and base thickness were the most significant factors influencing the effective
structural number of a pavement section. In contrast, rutting and patching caused no
significant effect on the calculated structural number.
For most of the sections, SN showed good correlation to the AC modulus when the
individual locations were compared, with low moduli in areas where SN values were
relatively low. However, poor correlation was observed when the average SN was correlated
with the average AC modulus for the pavement sections.

Acknowledgements
The support provided by the Louisiana Transportation Research Center (LTRC) is greatly
appreciated. The contents of this paper do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of
the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) or LTRC. The
authors express their gratitude to Christophe Fillastre of LADOTD.
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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013: Sustainable and Efficient Pavements ASCE 2013 372

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Airfield and Highway Pavement 2013