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Soil Cement Roads 

Richland County MT
20th Annual NRRA 
Pavement Conference
St. Paul, MN
February 18th, 2016

Russell Huotari, Richland Co 
Public Works Director
Steve Monlux, USFS Retired  
LVR Consultants, LLC 
stevemonlux@gmail.com
For Current Report, Google  William Vischer, USFS Retired 

“soil cement montana”
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Presentation Topics
• The Problem:  
• Structural Design Options
• Performance Measurements
• Life Cycle Cost Comparisons
• Soil Cement Construction & Repair
• Conclusions & Recommendations

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The Problem
• Heavy Truck Traffic on Weak Soil Roads
– 50,000 ESAL’s per well (development, fracking, 
crude and produced water haul)
• Truck ADT & Weight Unknown
• Over 100 miles of oil field arterials
• Limited Budget
• Limited Rock Resources

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Richland Co Road Network & Resource Impacts
Oil Development, Wheat, Gravel Roads North
Montana
Dakota
Missouri River

Richland
County
Border
56 mi

Population Center, Beet Farms, Gravel Resources


Yellowstone
River
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Approach to Problem
• Staff a Group to develop options
• Design structural sections
– Subgrade strengths 
– Truck traffic
– Available materials
• Build trial sections that have low initial cost
– Falling Weight Deflectometer (FWD) Test (Montana Non‐
Destructive Test Unit)
– Back calculate ESAL life, develop thickness design process 
(William Vischer, USFS Retired)
– Develop repair options for problems that develop

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Weak Soils (CBR of 1 to 3 typical)

5” Asphalt, + 8” Base 3” Scoria, old gravel base


(15 yrs old) (after 3 months)

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Weak Clay/Silt Subgrade Soils

Thin gravel layers Gravel


mix with subgrade Subgrade
Subgrade

Gravel with Fabric


Gravel & Geogrid
$ Too Fabric Geogrid
High Standard
Hot Mix
Pavement Design
Crushed
Gravel
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2014 ($3 M/mi +)
Asphalt & Aggregate  7” Hot Mix

Designs ~ 2006 to 2014 8” Crushed
Gravel Base

2006 ($1 M/mi)


Standard Hot
Mix Designs Structural
5” Hot Mix 17” Pit Run
Gravel
Layers 8” Crushed
Gravel Base

Subgrade Soil
Thin BST on
Base Designs Double
BST Gravel Base –
8” Thick (2009) Structural
Structural Layer 10” Thick (2010)
Layer
(4” Lift of gravel 2009
stabilized with BASE 1) ~ Subgrade Soil
Fabric
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2010 Designs
BST over 10” Gravel Base
$400,000/mile
1’
C

Water infiltration to Clay Subgrade is


Clay Subgrade close to structural support area
Critical Structural
Support Area Edge cracking & break off mtc. problems

BST over 8” $250,000 /mile


Soil Cement Harder support from soil cement reduces
damage from large rock punctures
C
12’ 2’
Flatter wider shoulder is less of a hazard
Clay Subgrade
Critical Structural
Support Area Wide impermeable shoulder keeps surface water
further away from critical structure support area.

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What is Soil Cement?

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Concerns with Clay Soil Cement
• Life
• Low cost driving surface
• Repair methods for semi‐rigid layer
• Accurate thickness design process
• Clay pulverization 
• Deep layer compaction
• Curing in windy climate

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Soil Cement Designs – Typical Sections
2010 2011 2012-13

Soil Cement, Soil Cement, Soil Cement,


8” to 12” thick 10” thick, 12” thick,
5% to 8% 8% Cement 6% to 7%
Cement Cement

Designs modified 
after FWD 
testing in spring 
and fall

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Soft Subgrade Designs
2011 2012 & 2013

Soil
Stabilization Soil Stabilization,
12” thick, 12” thick,
10% Cement 6% to 7% Cement

CBR = 1
Soil Modification,18” thick,
3% Cement
CBR = 1
Soft Spot Location
2011: (5%) Proof Rolling & DCP
2012: (15%)  Intelligent Compaction Roller & DCP
2013: (15%) Ground Penetrating Radar & DCP

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CR 129W CR 201 CR 321
300
Long Term  300
250
300

Ep x 1000, psi
Ep x 1000, psi

Ep x 1000, psi
250 250
200 200 200
Strength of  150
100
150
100
150
100

Soil Cement 50
0 1 2 3 4
50
0 1 2 3 4
50
0 1 2 3 4
CR 143E
Soil Cement Age, years CR 324
Soil Cement Age, years CR 146W
Soil Cement Age, years
300 300 300

Ep x 1000, psi

Ep x 1000, psi
Ep x 1000, psi
250 250 250
200 200 200
Designs should assume  150 150 150
Ep will be reduced by  100 100 100
20% to 40% over time  50 50 50
(Bill Vischer, Nov 2014) 0 1 2 3 4 0 1 2 3 4 0 1 2 3 4
CR 146E
Soil Cement Age, years CR 314
Soil Cement Age, years CR 143W
Soil Cement Age, years
300 300 300
Ep x 1000, psi

Ep x 1000, psi

Ep x 1000, psi
250 250 250
200 200 200
150 150 150
100 100 100
50 50 50
0 1 2 3 4 0 1 2 3 4 0 1 2 3 4
Soil Cement Age, years Soil Cement Age, years Soil Cement Age, years

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Soil Cement Thickness Design (Bill Vischer)
Appendix E1 - Thickness Design Curves - Soil Cement with BST Surface (4/2/2014) Page 1
Thickness Design Outline: Page one provides and example solution with a step by step process that uses graphs shown on page two
and three. Page 4 is a blank form of page one that should help keep the process organized.
Thickness Design Steps with an Example Design Data
Step 1: Assume a design traffic ESAL value. ESAL: 1,000,000
Step 2: Determine subgrade modulus. Use either a DCP and charts, or FWD & DCP Subgrade Mr,
3000
(preferred option) for the average deflection directly under a 6,000 lb load (Do) from tests psi:
conducted in the Spring season. Use Graph 1 to determine Subgrade Mr from FWD
maximum deflection, Do FWD Do, mils: 160

Max Subgrade
Step 3: Use Graph 2 to determine allowable subgrade strain for the design ESAL. 480
Microstrain:
Step 4: Use Graph 3 to determine maximum allowable stress ratio limit for the Soil Max Stress
0.60
Cement layer based on design traffic ESAL. Ratio
Sep 5: Use Graph 4 and the Step 7: Use Step 8: Selecting the best option
maximum subgrade strain to Step 6: Use Graph Graph 6 to requires engineering judgment
identify options of soil cement layer 5 and the determine when consideration of the following Step 9:
thicknesses possible for the design maximum stress the criteria Recommendations:
Subgrade Mr. Thicknesses ratio to determine minimum Alternative A: Pretreat all
correlating for Esc between 100 and which options from cement Cement content for known weak areas with 3%
Lean Clay Soils Maximum One
200 are suggested. Step 5 are content for cement to 18" depth to
Layer depth
acceptable based each raise the average subgrade
equals 12".
on the design acceptable 6% min 8% max for Two layers
Mr, followed by 12 %
Design Thickness,
Esc , psi Subgrade Mr design shrinkage increase cost treatment @ 8% Cement.
Option inches for Frost
option cracking Alternative B: Treat 12"
depth at 8% Cement and
1 16 >100 OK at any Esc 5.3 6% OK Two Layers Lower Design Traffic ESAL
2 14 >140 OK at any Esc 6.8 6% OK Two Layers value from 1,000,000 to
3 12 >170 OK at any Esc 8.8 OK No Single Layer 750,000
4 <12 wont work 8" won't work No 8" won't work
5

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Soil Cement Thickness Design (Con’t)
Graph 1.  Subgrade Mr vs Max Deflections                 Graph 2.  Subgrade Strain VS ESALS Graph 3. Stress Ratio vs ESALs
( From CR 351 Tests on Subgrade) 1000
1.00

Subgrade Microstrain 
14,000
900
y = 480035x‐0.997 0.90
12,000 R² = 0.9999
800
Subgrade Mr psi

10,000 0.80 y = 1.4723x-0.134

Stress Ratio
Load 5.‐6.7k Mr 700 R² = 0.9857
8,000 Norm 6k Mr 0.70
6,000 Power (Norm 6k Mr) 600 Calc Values
0.60
4,000
500
0.50
2,000
400
0 0.40
0 500 1000 1500 2000
0 50 100 150 200 0 500 1000 1500 2000
ESALS X 1000 ( Asphalt Institute Equation)
Do‐ Max Deflection‐Mils
18 kip ESALs ( x 1000 )

Graph 5.  Soil Cement (Esc) VS Soil  Cement  Stress Ratio
Mr=6 ; 18
Graph 4.  Soil Cement (Esc) VS Subgrade Strain 250

Soil Cement Modulus psi


22" 18" 12" 8"
Mr=3 ; 18"
250 Mr=6 ; 18
22" 18" 12" 8" Mr=3 ; 18" Mr=9 ; 18"
Mr=9 ; 18" 200
Mr=6 ; 12" Mr=6 ; 12"
Soil Cement  Modulus psi

200 Mr=3 ; 12"
Mr=9 ; 12" Mr=3 ; 12"
Mr=9 ; 8"
Mr=6 ; 8" 150 Mr=9 ; 12"
150 Mr=3 ; 8"
Mr=3 ; 22"
Mr=9 ; 8"
Mr=6 ; 22"

100 100 Mr=6 ; 8"

Mr=3 ; 8"

Mr=3 ; 22"
50 50
Mr=6 ; 22"

Mr=9 ; 22"
0
0 500 1000 1500 2000 0
0.00 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20
Subgrade Microstrain
Stabilized Layer Stress Ratio
Graph 6.  Soil Cement (ESC)  VS Cement Content
9%
8%
y = 0.0208e0.0086x
Cement %

7% R² = 0.9995
6%
5%
4%
3%
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ESC of Soil Cement , psi x 1000
Estimated Annual Cost Comparisons
Average Estimated 
Road Design Option Approximate Cost per Mile (a)
Life from FWD Data  
Road  Support  Construc‐ Average 
 ESAL Life Years (b) Annual Cost 
Surface Structure tion Annual Mtc
5" Hot Mix 8" Base 1,150,000 8 $900,000 $16,000 $149,000
Double BST 10" Base 100,000 1 $400,000 $20,000 $606,000 (c)
12" Soil 
Double BST 500,000 3 $300,000 $18,000 $115,000
Cement
3" Gravel on 
Double BST 12" Soil  2,000,000 13 $350,000 $16,000 $48,000
Cement
4" Treated  12" Soil 
2,000,000 13 $400,000 $26,000 (d) $63,000
Gravel Cement
(a) Costs are very project specific Consider other issues with 
(b) Based on 200 trucks/day, 50,000/yr (150,000 ESAL/yr) the Soil Cement option
(c) Classic case of under designed structural section for the selected ESAL/year traffic
(d) Primarily gravel replacement ‐ WAG
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Soil Cement Construction
• Road Preparation
• Cement Spreading
• Mixing Cement & Water
• Compaction
• Final Shaping & Compaction
• Curing & Surface Construction

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Road Prep  & Cement Spread

1.  Rebuild Crown 4.  Spread cement

3.  Rip Surface to 
control cement flow

2.  Blade up shoulder & 
center line berm
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Mixing, Compaction & Finishing
Reclaimer to pulverize 
Water to Hydrate  Pad Foot Roller for  Blade Rebuilds 
soil and mix soil, water 
Cement Compaction Crown
& cement

25 Ton Rubber 
Roller for Finish
Spread Cement
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Uneven Moisture/Compaction

Problem solved in 2013 by mix chamber 
cleaning after each cement spread

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Clay 
Pulverization 
Problems
Pulverization increased by:
slower ground speed,
multiple passes, 
higher drum speeds, and 
closing mix chamber doors
Good  Poor 
Pulverization Pulverization

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Double Chip Seal (2011‐12)
First Seal on 
Soil Cement

Second Seal on top of First Seal

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Surfacing on Soil Cement
Surfacing Type, Miles
Year Double  BST on 3”  3” HMA on  4” Treated Gravel
BST Gravel 3”  Base (Bentonite & CaCl2)

2010 1.75 0 0 3
2011 24 0.8 0 0
2012 12 0 0.4 12
2013 0 4.8 0 8

Build $ Low Moderate Highest Moderate

Est. Mtc. $ Moderate Low Lowest Moderate


(Blading, Chloride, Rock)

Estimated  Moderate
Low? Low? Moderate?
Life Cycle $ ?
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Treated Gravel Surfacing (1 yr. old)

Close‐up photo of road 
surface in wheel track

Treated Gravel (3% Bentonite, 1.5% Calcium Chloride)
Bentonite reduces chloride leaching, chloride reduces Bentonite dusting
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Soil Cement Quality Assurance
QA Costs depend on Contractor, site conditions, weather, etc

• Cement application rate
• Pulverization
• Depth of mixing
• Moisture content during mixing
• Compaction
• Surface finish crown and profile
• Curing

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Extent of Soil Cement Structural Repairs
2011 (24  2012 & 13 (30 
miles) Miles)
Total Surface Area, SY 394,240 SY 492,800 SY
Total Repair Surface Area 9,878 SY 1,418 SY
% of Total work (1) 2.5 % 0.3%

(1) Note that the relative amounts of truck traffic are unknown

Repairs for 2012 & 2013 work is less because
• Better control of cement flow/content
• Better control of pulverization and moisture content
• Increased design thickness – 10” vs. 12”
• Soft Spot Treatment  ~ more treated (15% vs 5% of road area), 
deeper treatment (12” vs. 18”)
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Problems with 2011 Work
Otta Seal Bleeding
Compression Failures

QA/QC – Soil Pulverization 
Soil cement compression 
& Cement Uniformity failure due to excessive flexure

Low cement content on 5 ft shoulder

Note:  Repair patch of 
5” Hot mix & 15” Base 
rutted after 6 months

12 inch stabilization depth 
inadequate for very soft subgrade
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BST “Pick‐up” Problems (2011)
(caused by stopping vehicles on bleeding BST)

Problem Area Solution:  Spray patch, 
UPM or Omega Mix patch

Cold UPM 
Patch 
Material 

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Road 321 BST Shoving/Tearing (2011)

Repair Methods:
No Depression Area: 
Remove BST & fabric, new 
BST full width
Depression Area:  Re‐soil 
cement, 3” Gravel & BST 
Full width
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Damage by 200 Ton Oil 
Rig Movement (2011)

Re soil cement or cover 
with 3” gravel & BST 
full width

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Pot Hole at Soil Cement Transverse Joint (2011) 
(Caused by low cement content)

1 yr. Fix? (UPM Type cold mix patch)
Long Term Fix (Re‐mix with Portland 
Cement, add 3” Base & BST)

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Depressed/Rutted Areas (2011)
(Caused by low cement content)

Full Depth Reclamation with  Use Pick Axe to 
additional Portland Cement determine FDR area
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Repair Options for Structural Problems
Depressions caused by
low cement content
FDR Soil
Soil Cement
Full Depth & Width Reclamation with Cement Repair
more cement, gravel base and BST

Compression Failures
from Flexure
Soil Cement
Reinforce with 4” Gravel Base & BST
Very Weak Subgrade

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Proposed Strategy for Improving 
Unpaved Arterial Roads
• Year 1:  Cement stabilize soft spot areas on gravel 
roads 
– 18 inch treatment depth
– 3 inch gravel surfacing 50 to 300 ft.

• Year 2:  After all soft spots stabilized
– Cement stabilize 12 inch depths,
– Add 3 inch base 
– Double chip seal or 3 inch hot mix asphalt
• Re‐stabilize any failed areas with at least 5% more 
cement 
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Conclusions/Recommendations
Costs:  Soil Cement cost effective where:
Rock costs are high, 
Soils are suitable, 
Road widths are marginal

Best
Better Design 
Design Marginal
thicknesses 
based on truck 
traffic, subgrade 
strength, etc.

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Conclusions/Recommendations
• Construction and Maintenance
Google: “Soil Cement – Montana”

• Other Resources
Wirtgen Cold Recycling Technology Manual
TRB – “Recommended Practice for Stabilization of Subgrade 
Soils and Base Materials”
Soil Stabilization for Pavements UFC 3‐250‐11 (TM 5‐822)
Transportation Research Board publications
Non‐Standard Stabilizers(FS):  “Stabilization Selection Guide for 
Aggregate and Native Surfaced Low Volume Roads”

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Thank You!
Questions or Comments?

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