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Part 7

Mechanically Stabilized Embankment

— 1997 —
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section/Article Description Page

7.1 General . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7-2


7.1.1 Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7-2

7.2 Design of Mechanically Stabilized Embankments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7-2


7.2.1 General . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7-2
7.2.2 Special Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7-2 1

7.3 Construction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7-3


7.3.1 General . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7-3

© 2017, American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association


8-7-1
Concrete Structures and Foundations

SECTION 7.1 GENERAL

7.1.1 DEFINITIONS

a. A “Mechanically Stabilized Embankment (MSE)” is an embankment that has its strength increased by the inclusion of
horizontal tensile members within the soil mass. The composite embankment material exhibits improved shear strength
and compressive strength relative to unreinforced material. The MSE will always consist of at least two elements: 1)
earth, and 2) tensile reinforcement; and may have facing elements to provide a vertical or nearly vertical face.

b. “Reinforcing Elements” are horizontal elements placed within the soil mass between successive layers of compacted
soil which are designed to provide tensile reinforcement to restrain soil deformation in the direction of the
reinforcement; and which are placed between successive layers of compacted earth.

c. “Inextensible Reinforcing Elements” are those elements within the soil mass that do not elongate sufficiently under the
design load to allow soil deformations to develop the “active state” on the potential failure surface within the soil mass.
Inextensible reinforcing elements are generally metallic.

d. “Extensible Reinforcing Elements” are those elements within the soil mass that do elongate sufficiently under the
design load to allow soil deformations to develop the “active state” along the potential failure surface within the soil
mass. Extensible reinforcing elements are generally high strength polymer geogrids and other geosynthetic materials.

e. “Facing Elements” are those elements of an MSE that are placed to prevent localized sloughing and erosion of the
embankment face. Facing elements can consist of precast concrete panels, metal panels, polymer panels, wire mesh,
timber, or the polymer reinforcing materials themselves.

SECTION 7.2 DESIGN OF MECHANICALLY STABILIZED EMBANKMENTS

7.2.1 GENERAL

a. Use of any MSE must be approved by the controlling railroad.

b. Design of MSE shall be in accordance with the current AASHTO STANDARD SPECIFICATIONS FOR HIGHWAY
BRIDGES, except as modified by other provisions of this part of this chapter.

c. The factor of safety against pullout of reinforcing elements shall be 1.75 to account for rail traffic induced vibrations.

d. Surcharge live loads applied in the design of MSE shall be those in Part 20.3.2.3 of this chapter.

e. Design live loadings shall be, as given in Part 2.2.3(c) of this chapter, subject to change at the discretion of the railroad.

7.2.2 SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

a. Where the use of MSE is proposed on electric traction railroads utilizing direct current, an engineer specializing in
corrosion protection/prevention shall investigate and make site-specific recommendations for special design
considerations.

b. Consideration shall be given to the potential for accelerated corrosion or deterioration of structural elements of MSE
due to the relatively high permeability of railroad roadbeds and the potential for precipitation and other potentially

© 2017, American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association

8-7-2 AREMA Manual for Railway Engineering


Mechanically Stabilized Embankment

corrosive substances infiltrating the roadbed. The use of an impermeable geomembrane connected to lateral drains
below the sub-ballast, but above the top level of reinforcements should be considered.

c. Consideration should be given to placing the first level of reinforcing elements below the depth of excavation that
would be reached in the placement of utilities within the R.O.W. Alternately, conduits for utilities can be placed during
the MSE construction.

d. Excavation to, or below, the top level of reinforcing elements shall not be allowed following the construction of the
MSE.

SECTION 7.3 CONSTRUCTION

7.3.1 GENERAL

a. Construction of MSE shall be in conformance with the provisions of the current edition of the AASHTO STANDARD
SPECIFICATIONS FOR HIGHWAY BRIDGES, DIVISION II - CONSTRUCTION, unless modified for application
to the specific MSE.

b. Special contract provisions shall be provided as necessary for proper construction of the specific MSE.

© 2017, American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association

AREMA Manual for Railway Engineering 8-7-3


Concrete Structures and Foundations

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© 2017, American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association

8-7-4 AREMA Manual for Railway Engineering