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Distribution of Superelevation

Reference to Equation 4-7, where the f-value is equal to zero, the whole lateral force is
balanced by the superelevation (‘hands-off’ condition). This condition can occur on large
radius curves or for slow moving vehicles on curves of any radius. At low speeds, the f-
value can be negative, and the curve is then over-superelevated for that speed. Horizontal
curves are generally designed, however, so that a positive f-value is required for the range
of vehicle speeds likely to occur by provision of an adequate e-value.

This section explains how the superelevation is determined for curve radii greater than the
minimum curve radius for a specified design speed in accordance with the AASHTO ‘94
method, taking into account the current practice adopted the Road development Authority.
The superelevation distribution curve is approximated by using a parabolic equation as
illustrated in Figure 4-7. The rationale of using the parabolic curve in comparison with
two other approaches may be described as follows:

• Distribution curve 1 shows that the superelevation (e) corresponds linearly with the
degree of curve (D). As it will be shown later, the degree of curve is basically an
inverse function of the radius of curve (R); the smaller the D value, the higher will
be the R value. Whilst, distribution curve 1 offers simplicity in the calculation, on
flatter curves it results in higher side friction coefficients than that expected by
drivers. So, this may cause to some degree an uncomfortable feeling to the drivers.
• Distribution curve 2 shows that the maximum superelevation is provided for the
lower range of curve radii and the superelevation for the higher range of curve radii
is provided to exert all the lateral force acting on the vehicle, such that the side
friction coefficient equals to zero (hands-off condition). If this distribution curve is
accepted for design, it may cause some inconveniences for vehicles traveling on the
flatter curves at speeds less than the design speed, because they will receive
negative side friction coefficients. Therefore, it may be desirable to use this
distribution curve as the lower limit to represent about 50% of drivers (the average
speed). Then, for the design speed and with the same superelevation curve,
distribution curve 3 of side friction coefficients is obtained.

• Distribution curve 3 is effected as a result of the conditions set above for the
vehicles traveling at the design speed. This distribution curve after being
approximated by an unsymmetrical parabolic function is then normally adopted.

However, from local experience in Sri Lanka where the proportion of slow moving and
non-motorized vehicles in most of the road network are quite significant, the provision for
a greater superelevation compensated by a lower side friction coefficient appears to be

Hence, for roads in open areas, distribution curve 3 of superelevation may be used. Whilst,
for roads in built-up areas, other distribution curves that employ fmax for greater
superelevations are required. The greater side friction coefficients on these roads may be
acceptable due to lower operating speeds frequently used by drivers because of traffic
interruption from high volumes, short trips as well as side road activities.
Figure 4-7: Derivation of the superelevation distribution curve

• Derivation of Superelevation Distribution Curve Equations

A parabolic equation representing the superelevation distribution curve is derived

as follows:

For simplification in the presentation of Equation (4-10), curve radius (R) is

represented by the degree of curvature (D), as illustrated in Figure 4-8, such that:

25 m
D 25
------ = ------
360 2πR

D = ----------- . . . (4-11)

Figure 4-8: Diagram illustrating the degree of curvature

Hence, the general horizontal curve equation can be rewritten as:

V2 D V2 D
e+f = -------------------- = -------- . . . (4-9a)
127 * 1432.349 c
Therefore, for a given design speed, the relationship between (e+f) and D becomes

The intersecting point of the distribution curve (DPI,HPI) can be calculated from
the general horizontal curve equation.

emax * c
DPI = ------------ . . . (4-9b)

HPI = ---------- - emax

⎧ V2 ⎫
= emax ⎨ --------- - 1 ⎬ . . . (4-9c)
⎩ (Vmean)2 ⎭

Other parameters needed are the three slopes of the distribution curve at the
beginning (S2), at DPI (S) and at the end (S1) and the D max.

S1 = ------ . . . (4-9d)
(fmax - HPI)
S2 = ------------------- . . . (4-9e)
(Dmax - DPI)
fmax S1 (DPI) + S2 (Dmax - DPI)
S = --------- = ----------------------------------
Dmax Dmax
(emax + fmax) * 127 * 1432.349
Dmax = ---------------------------------------------- . . . (4-9f)

The general parabolic curve through the origin (0,0) is in the following format:

f = a D2 + b D . . . (4-9g)

where the slope is:

----- = 2aD+b

⎧ df ⎫
⎨ ----- ⎬ = S1 = 2 a 0 + b
⎩ dD ⎭D=0
b = S1

Since (S1 D) is the tangent line, for convenience, the f-axis can therefore be
translated to F-axis, such that:
F = a D2

For its operational use, it would be convenient if this equation is converted into the
following format.

⎧ D ⎫2
F = mo ⎨ ----- ⎬ . . . (4-9h)
⎩ DPI ⎭

mo = a * DPI2

The value of mo is then solved by the remaining condition, that is:

⎧ dF ⎫ DPI
⎨ ----- ⎬ = S = 2 mo -------
⎩ dD ⎭D=DPI DPI2

mo = ---------
S1 (DPI) + S2 (Dmax - DPI) DPI
mo = ----------------------------------- * -----
Dmax 2
mo = ---------- * S2 * Dmax - (S2 - S1) DPI
2 Dmax

DPI ⎧ S2 ⎫
mo = ---------- * (S2 - S1) ⎨ ----------- * Dmax - DPI ⎬
2 Dmax ⎩ (S2 - S1) ⎭


-------- = 1
S2 - S1


mo = ---------- * (S2 - S1) * (Dmax - DPI) . . . (4-9i)
2 Dmax

With this mo-value in Eq. (4-9i), the general horizontal curve (parabolic) equation
finally becomes:

For D ≤ DPI,
⎧ D ⎫2
f = mo ⎨ ----- ⎬ + S1 D . . . (4-9j)
⎩ DPI ⎭

For D ≥ DPI,

⎧ Dmax - D ⎫2
f = mo ⎨ --------------- ⎬ + HPI + S2 (D - DPI) . . . (4-9k)
⎩ Dmax - DPI ⎭

By using Equations (4-9j) and (4-9k), the superelevation distribution curves as a

function of curve radius can be calculated for various design speeds and maximum
superelevations. Yet, for this calculation, the average speed in relation with the
design speed should first be established, as described in the following section.