NCHRP Synthesis 478 – Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles

nchrp_syn_478_Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles_2015

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has released a synthesis report prepared by Dan and Robert on large diameter piles: NCHRP Synthesis 478, Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles.  The report is a summary of the state of practice with regard to Large Diameter Open-Ended Piles (LDOEPs) in the transportation industry.  We conducted a survey of state DOTs as well as interviews with private practitioners to summarize current practices as well as recommend best practices with regard to the selection, design, installation, and testing of LDOEPs.   Several state DOTs are using LDOEPs more regularly where large foundation loads may exist and/or the piles are subject to significant unsupported length due to scour, liquefaction, or very weak surficial soils. Marine construction conditions also favor the use of these piles, particularly where pile bents might be employed to eliminate footings.

You can download a PDF of the report or purchase a hard copy at the link below.

Brown, D.A. and Thompson, W.R. (2015). NCHRP Synthesis 478, Design and Load Testing of Large Diameter Open-Ended Driven Piles, Transportation Research Board, National Academies, Washington, D.C.

DBA Engineers Perform “Extreme” Geologic Investigation

DBA engineers prepare to go over the edge of the 200-ft tall west wall of the Rouchleau mine pit with the load test site in the background. From left to right: David Graham, Nathan Glinski, Ryan Turner, and Paul Axtell
DBA engineers prepare to go over the edge of the 200-ft tall west wall of the Rouchleau mine pit with the load test site in the background. From left to right: David Graham, Nathan Glinski, and Paul Axtell (far right).

DBA is currently working with structural designer Parsons to design what will be Minnesota’s tallest bridge.  The bridge will span the currently inactive Rouchleau open pit iron ore mine near Virginia, Minnesota. MnDOT is moving the alignment of the existing Hwy 53 to make way for future mining in the area.  DBA is the lead geotechnical designer on the project in addition to being contracted as MnDOT’s load test expert for the ongoing design phase load test program.

As part of our site investigation to gather information on rock fall and the site geology, five DBA engineers (John Turner, Paul Axtell, Tim Siegel, Nathan Glinksi, and David Graham) got up close and personal with the site by rappelling off the near vertical cut faces on either side of the Rouchleau pit! Traversing the over 200-ft tall cut faces of the nearly 2-billion year Biwabik Formation rock formation by rope and harness, we collected valuable geologic data.  We also took some great pictures like the ones posted to our Google Photos account.  In addition to the still pictures, we took some videos of a few rock fall tests, which are on our YouTube channel.

If you would like to know more about this interesting project on Minnesota’s Iron Range, you can check out our project summary sheet, visit MnDOT’s project page, or stay tuned to this blog for more updates.  There is also an online article about the project that was recently published by Civil Engineering Magazine.

Foundations for the New Sacremento Entertainment and Sports Center



Contributed by Rob Saunders, P.E. – DBA

DBA has been working on an exciting new project currently under construction in downtown Sacramento, California: the new Sacramento Arena, known as the Entertainment and Sports Center (ESC).  The ESC will be a multi-use, publicly owned indoor arena. The Sacramento Kings will be the primary tenant and the arena is expected to host other indoor sports and music concerts, as well.  Once completed, the ESC will replace Sleep Train Arena as the home of the Kings.  According to Kings Chairman Vivek Ranadive, the 17,500-seat arena will be “one of the most iconic structures on the planet … It’s going to put Sacramento on the world map.”


Turner Construction is the head of development for the new arena. Malcolm Drilling Company was awarded the contract to design and construct the foundation system.  DBA worked closely with Malcolm to design Omega piles (a drilled and grouted displacement pile) to serve as the foundations for the new arena.  The site presented unique design challenges, including liquefiable soil conditions and existing deep foundations from the demolisLogo_Malcolm_Stacked_Bluehed portion of the Downtown Plaza.

DBA’s design incorporates 18” and 24”  Omega piles.  An extensive site-specific load test program was performed to determine the axial resistances of the piles.  Eight test piles were instrumented with strain gauges to measure the load distribution in the piles.  Supplemental cone penetration testing was performed following load testing to better correlate the load test results with the subsurface conditions.

The piles were designed to resist ground motions from seismic events using site-specific ground curvature data developed by Pacific Engineering and Analysis. The piles were designed to resist the curvature at the anticipated pile section with only a single center reinforcing bar, eliminating the need to extend the entire cage to the bottom of the pile. This detail in the design is very important to ease the pile installation for the site conditions.

The final design incorporates a total of 952 piles to support the arena structure (346 18” dia. Piles and 606 24” dia. piles). The new arena is estimated to cost $477 million, with $255 million of that being funded by the City of Sacramento. The rest of the arena ($222 million) will be funded by the Sacramento Kings. Construction began October 29, 2014 and is planned to be completed by October of 2016.

The groundbreaking for the project was featured by the Sacremento Bee on October 29, 2014 (link).

Kansas City Load Test Photos Added

BPU Load Test

Last spring, DBA conducted a construction phase load test program for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers floodwall improvement project  along the Missouri River in Kansas City, Kansas.  Located on property owned and maintained by the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the BPU floodwall was slated for structural improvements including a series of buttresses founded on 24-in drilled shafts.  As part of the project contract a load test program performed under the direction of a qualified P.E. and D.GE was required.  General contractor L.G. Barcus & Sons, Inc., secured our Paul Axtell, P.E., D.GE as the qualified load test expert.  DBA teamed up with load testing subcontractor Applied Foundation Testing, Inc., to perform the static load tests.

The load test program requirements included three test shafts, a statically loaded axial test shaft, a statically loaded lateral test shaft, and a combined statically loaded axial and lateral test shaft.  The required combined lateral and axial test shaft provided some unique challenges with respect to applying the loads and collecting data.  As can be seen in the picture above, the axial load was applied using dead weights.

We have added selected pictures from this unique project to our web albums, which can be viewed here.

New PEER Report – Evaluation of Collapse and Non-Collapse of Parallel Bridges Affected by Liquefaction and Lateral Spreading


Our own Ben Turner (future Dr. Turner!) was lead author on a report by the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) on liquefaction and lateral spreading effects on bridges. The report is titled “Evaluation of Collapse and Non-Collapse of Parallel Bridges Affected by Liquefaction and Lateral Spreading”. Ben’s coauthors are Dr. Scott J. Brandenberg and Dr. Jonathan P. Stewart of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCLA. From the abstract:

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center and the California Department of Transportation have recently developed design guidelines for computing foundation demands during lateral spreading using equivalent static analysis (ESA) procedures. In this study, ESA procedures are applied to two parallel bridges that were damaged during the 2010 M 7.2 El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake in Baja California, Mexico. The bridges are both located approximately 15 km from the surface rupture of the fault on soft alluvial soil site conditions. Estimated median ground motions in the area in the absence of liquefaction triggering are peak ground  accelerations = 0.27g and peak ground velocity = 38 cm/sec (RotD50 components). The bridges are structurally similar and both are supported on deep foundations, yet they performed differently during the earthquake. A span of the pile-supported railroad bridge collapsed, whereas the drilled-shaft-supported highway bridge suffered only moderate damage and remained in service following the earthquake. The ESA procedures applied to the structures using a consistent and repeatable framework for developing input parameters captured both the collapse of the railroad bridge and the performance of the highway bridge. Discussion is provided on selection of the geotechnical and structural modeling parameters as well as combining inertial demands with kinematic demands from lateral spreading.

This report is part of Ben’s work on his doctoral dissertation. You can download the report by clicking on the linked citation below.

Turner, B., Brandenberg, S.J. and Stewart, J.P. (2014). “Evaluation of Collapse and Non-Collapse of Parallel Bridges Affected by Liquefaction and Lateral Spreading”, PEER Report 2014/10, Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, University of California, Berkley, August, 2014, 94pp.

Goethals Bridge Replacement – Webcam!


DBA is on the design-build team that is replacing the Goethals Bridge for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). We are not able to post much about the project or our involvement due to security agreements. However, the PANYNJ has a public website for the project ( that has several webcams.  As is the case with most big projects these days, the webcams are a common feature and show some great views of the project.

To give you an idea of what the project involves, here is a summary from the PANYNJ site:

The replacement bridge will be located directly south of the existing bridge and will provide:

  • Three 12-foot-wide lanes in each direction replacing the current two narrow 10-foot-wide lanes
  • A 12-foot-wide outer shoulder and a 5-foot-wide inner shoulder in each direction
  • A 10-foot-wide sidewalk/bikeway along the northern edge of the New Jersey-bound roadway
  • Improved safety conditions and performance reliability by meeting current geometric design, structural integrity, security and seismic standards, and reduces life-cycle cost
  • A central corridor between the eastbound and westbound roadway decks, sufficient to accommodate potential transit service
  • State-of-the-art smart bridge technology

The project also includes the demolition of the existing bridge upon completion of the replacement bridge.

You can learn more about the project at the same web site.  There is also a site for the current bridge, including history of the construction, etc.

NCHRP Report 697 – Design Guidelines for Increasing Lateral Resistance of Bridge Pile Foundations

nchrp_rpt_697_coverWe have added a link to the NCHRP Report No. 697 Design Guidelines for Increasing Lateral Resistance of Bridge Pile Foundations.  This report was published in 2011 and authored by Kyle Rollins, Pd.D., P.E. of Brigham Young University and our own Dan Brown.  Dr. Rollins is a Professor in Geotechnical Engineering specializing in earthquake engineering and soil improvement.


In the forward of the report, Andrew Lemer of TRB writes:

NCHRP Report 697: Design Guidelines for Increasing the Lateral Resistance of Highway- Bridge Pile Foundations by Improving Weak Soils presents design guidance for strengthening of soils to resist lateral forces on bridge pile foundations. Lateral loads may be produced by wave action, wind, seismic events, ship impact, or traffic. Strengthening of soil surrounding the upper portions of piles and pile groups—for example by compaction, replacement of native soil with granular material, or mixing of cement with soil—may be more cost-effective than driving additional piles and extending pile caps as ways to increase the bridge foundation’s capacity to resist lateral forces associated with these loads. This report presents computational methods for assessing soil-strengthening options using finite-element analysis of single piles and pile groups and a simplified approach employing commercially available software. The analysis methodology and design guidelines will be helpful to designers responsible for bridge foundations likely to be exposed to significant lateral loads.

Be sure to browse all of the nifty reports and projects in geotechnical and foundation engineering at TRB here.

Also check out our Publications page regularly for new postings.

DBA Expands Again – Welcome Rob Saunders, P.E. and Ben Turner, P.E.!

DBA is please to announce the addition of two new members: Robert M. Saunders, P.E. and Benjamin Turner, P.E.

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Rob is a graduate of the University of Tennessee (BSCE and MSCE) with 11 years of experience. He began his career at S&ME working with our own Tim Siegel and for the last 8 years has been with GEOServices, LLC in Knoxville. He has a broad design background, specializing in analysis and design of earth retention systems and deep foundations. His experience with earth retention systems includes design and construction of soil nail walls, soldier pile walls, anchored systems, temporary shoring, and mechanically stabilized earth walls. His experience with deep foundation design includes lateral response analysis of deep foundations and design of deep foundation in karst geology. Rob has been involved with several major projects for private companies and public agencies including Foothills Parkway in Blount co., Tennessee, Interstate 240 expansion in Memphis, Tennessee, and Bridgeforth Stadium at James Madison University.

Rob will be located in Knoxville, Tennessee with Tim Siegel.


Ben is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in geotechnical earthquake engineering at UCLA with an emphasis on the transfer of forces between the ground and foundation elements during seismic loading. Prior to starting at UCLA, he worked for two years for the Los Angeles office of Shannon & Wilson, Inc.  Ben worked in both construction and geotechnical firms while attending school for his B.S. and M.S. degrees.  His experience includes: design, construction, and load testing of deep foundations;  geotechnical earthquake engineering including soil-structure interaction, seismic hazard analysis, site response, liquefaction triggering analysis and mitigation of liquefaction-induced ground failure; and, characterization of structural behavior of reinforced concrete foundations.

Ben will be working part-time as he can while completing his Ph. D. and will  join DBA full time after completing his studies, staying in the Los Angeles, California area.


Welcome to both Rob and Ben!

DBA website gets an upgrade

DBA website screenshotWe’re almost done with an upgrade to our website. With more than 50% of our site traffic now coming from smartphones and tablets, we needed a responsive web design, i.e., one that provides “an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).” So the site now detects the type and size of your device and reshapes its presentation of the content while keeping the visual design.

That visual design is new, too. We’re using the Twenty Fourteen theme by WordPress, in part because of its ‘magazine style’ presentation of blog content. At the top of the home page, we now feature six blog posts, each with a featured image or photo. Clicking on the title or the photo of any of those takes you to that blog post where a larger version of the photo and the complete content is displayed. Other blog posts that aren’t selected by us to be featured will appear in the usual reverse chronological order on the blog/home page.

Lastly, we’re now showing excerpts of all blog posts on the home page rather than the entire contents of each post as before. This allows you to more quickly scan the latest posts, while giving you enough of a glimpse of each one to help you decide whether it interests you enough to click on it.

If you notice any problems with the new site, we’d appreciate hearing from you via our Contact Us page.

Specialists in Deep Foundation Design, Construction, and Testing and Slope Stability Problems