Instrumentation at US 231 bridge and Slide

(Written by Andy Boeckmann – DBA)

After successful design and construction of the US 231 emergency slide repair in Lacey’s Spring, Alabama, DBA shifted gears to install a state-of-the-art monitoring system for the project. The monitoring system allows DBA and ALDOT to remotely detect any movement of the drilled shafts, changes in groundwater levels, and movement of the slope, itself.

The monitoring system includes ShapeAccelArray (SAAV) devices to measure displacement profiles with depth. SAAVs, which are manufactured by Measurand, consist of a chain of rigid segments, each 1.5-ft long and about 1-inch diameter. DBA installed 27 SAAV devices at US 231. Each of the 24 drilled shafts has one SAAV, which DBA installed in a 1-inch conduit welded to the drilled shaft reinforcement and emerging from the top of the grade beams connecting the shafts. The other three SAAVs are “free-field” SAAVs, installed in the soil between bridge bents. DBA worked with ALDOT’s drill crews to install the free-field SAAVs.

ALODT drill crew installing a free-field SAAV under the Northbound bridge.

 

Completed free-field and foundation instruments at Bent NB4.

 

DBA also worked with the ALDOT drill crews to install vibrating wire piezometer devices at six locations across the site. Each location includes two piezometers, one in the soil and one just below the top of rock. The piezometers were installed using the fully-grouted method. The piezometers measure pore pressure, which DBA uses to interpret groundwater conditions at the site.

 

Datalogger atop a vibrating wire piezometer.

 

All of the instruments are connected wirelessly to two central hubs that collect the data. The hubs are solar powered.  One of the hubs is equipped with a cellular modem that facilitates remote collection of the data.  RST Instruments manufactures the monitoring equipment as well as the vibrating wire piezometers.

Housing for SAAV devices installed in drilled shafts.

 

R-star hub and solar panel mounted to SB Bent 6.

 

Inside of data collection hub.

 

Results of the monitoring program indicate the foundation system is performing as designed. The US 231 structure has passed its first wet season with flying colors. Despite several periods of heavy rain that resulted in localized slope movement, the drilled shafts have shown only very small movement, typically less than 0.05 inch. The movement shown in the shafts indicates they are resisting loading from the slope movement, but with plenty of reserve capacity. The monitoring system has successfully captured realistic results from all instruments, including the drilled shaft and free-field SAAVs and piezometers.

Piezometer data shows strong correlation between rainfall and increases in groundwater levels.
Example of SAAV drilled shaft displacement. Shaft displacements are very small, typically less than the stated accuracy of the SAAV devices.

The monitoring system is more than just bells and whistles: it is an integral part of DBA’s design philosophy for the US 231 project. DBA engineers were able to implement the innovative strategy of drilled shafts through an active landslide because we knew performance of the foundation system would be actively monitored. This strategy represents a modern take on the observational method, which has represented best geotechnical engineering practice since the profession originated. DBA will also use results of the monitoring program to inform future designs, consistent with our commitment to using state of the art to improve the state of practice.

NEW PUBLICATIONS ADDED AND UPDATES TO THE WEBSITE

It’s been a while since we have updated everyone on some of the various publications we have added to our website, so I wanted to provide a few links to some of the newer additions to our Publications tab.  One magazine that members of DBA contribute to fairly regularly is Geostrata Magazine.  The Geostrata Magazine is a bi-monthly publication of the Geo-Institute.  You can join the Geo-Institute and gain access to the magazine by following this link:  https://www.geoinstitute.org/publications/geostrata.  Dr. Dan Brown published an article in the May-June 2020 edition about lessons learned from failures during pile installation with regards to driving stresses.  In the January-February 2021 edition, Dr. Erik Loehr contributed an article about recognizing the inherent value in site characterization.  Links for the articles are below.

Brown, D., E. (2020). “Learning from Pile Driving Failures,” Geostrata, May-June 2020.

Loehr, J. E. (2021). “Recognizing Value in Site Characterization – How Cool Would That Be?”, Geostrata, January-February 2021.

Speaking of the Geo Institute, Dan Ding and Erik Loehr recently co-authored a paper in the Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering (see link below).

Ding, D., Loehr, J. E. (2019). “Variability and Bias in Undrained Shear Strength from Different Sampling and Testing Methods,”Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering Volume 145, Issue 10, October 2019.

An organization that we actively publish papers with is the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI).  We have added papers from the last three years for the DFI Annual Conference as well as the The Journal of the Deep Foundations Institute.  Links to the papers are below.  To join DFI or learn more , click the DFI logo located in the left sidebar.

T.C. Siegel, T. J. Day, B. Turner & P. Faust (2019) “Measured end resistance of CFA and drilled displacement piles in San Francisco Area alluvial clay”,DFI Journal – The Journal of the Deep Foundations Institute, 12:3, pp 186-189.

Graham, D.S. and Axtell, P.J. (2019). “Case History: Comparison of CSL Results to Physical Observations,” Proceedings: Deep Foundations Institute 44th Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, USA, pp 420-427.

Axtell, P.J., Graham, D.S., and Jackson, J. (2018). “Drilled Shaft Difficulties and a Micropile Solution,” Proceedings: Deep Foundations Institute 43rd Annual Conference, Anaheim, CA, USA, pp 93-103.

Graham, D.S., Axtell, P.J., and Iverson, N. W. (2017). “Case History: Large Diameter Micropiles for the Highway 53 Relocation Project,” Proceedings: Deep Foundations Institute 42nd Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA, USA.

Dr. Dan Brown has also recently submitted an article to Pile Driver Magazine, which is a bi-monthly publication of the Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA).  To learn more about the PDCA or become a member, click on logo on the left sidebar. The magazine is free to access and can be found by clicking here while the link for Dr. Brown’s article can be found below.

Brown, D. (2020). “A comparison of factors affecting the static axial resistance of drilled and driven piles”, Pile Driver Issue 4 2020, Volume 17 No. 4, pp 60-78.

We have also added a few older papers that David Graham and Paul Axtell have published.  One, a case history for a micropile project, was for the International Society of Micropiles.  The other was for the 34th annual International Bridge Conference.  The links for  the papers are found below.

Axtell, P.J., Graham, D.S., and Bailey, J. D. (2017). “Statnamic Load Testing on a 406mm (16 in) Diameter Micropile,” International Society of Micropiles, Chicago, IL, USA.

Graham, D.S., Hasbrouck, G.T., Axtell, P.J., and Turner, J.P. (2017). “Reducing Longitudinal Demands on Tall Bridge Piers with an Anchored Abutment”, Proceedings of the 34th International Bridge Conference, 2017, National Harbor, MD, USA, pp 668-672.

Finally, we have also updated our About Us tab to reflect the change in leadership announced back in April of 2020 and provide an updated view of our current staff here at DBA.  The names of each individual are links to their respective resume. 

US 231 Emergency Slide Repair – Laceys Spring, Alabama

DBA had the great fortune to be working with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) on a very interesting bridge project in Lacey’s Spring, Alabama just south of Huntsville, Alabama.  On February 12 and 13, 2020 a large landslide occurred on SR-53 (US-231) at milepost 301.7 in Morgan County approximately 1.7 miles south of the Laceys Spring Community.  The slide completely severed the 4-lane divided highway which is a major commuting route between Huntsville and several communities south of the city.  Many of the workers at the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and the contractors and vendors that support these two major installations live in the communities impacted by the closure of the highway.  Detours were established on existing state and county roads, but these added 30 to 60 minutes to commute times, depending on time of day.  ALDOT was under significant pressure from the impacted communities to quickly solve the problem and reopen the road.

ALDOT drill rigs performing exploratory drilling (DBA)

 

ALDOT drilling crews were immediately mobilized to the site to begin drilling exploratory borings and install slope inclinometer casings for monitoring slide movements.  The Department of Civil Engineering at Auburn University was engaged to perform geophysical testing in conjunction with an existing research project for ALDOT.  Geotechnical engineering firm TTL also assisted with field investigation efforts. 

DBA and ALDOT immediately began evaluating several alternate concepts for stabilizing the slide and reopening the road during the soil and rock exploratory drilling.  The design team looked at several retaining wall options, a complete rebuild of the roadway, and bridges.  ALDOT selected a solution that removed most of the existing roadway embankments (built in 1947 and 1970) to reduce loading on the slope and then spanning the slide area with bridges built on the existing road alignments, with the bridges designed to withstand future movements of the slope.  Excavation was begun by Reed Contracting before bridge design was complete in order for the rough grading to be done before the bridge contractor mobilized.

The bridges are two-lane structures, one Northbound and one Southbound, each about 947 ft in length.  The superstructure is AASHTO BT-72 concrete girders and a concrete deck.  There are seven spans in each bridge each about 135ft long.  The grading work was begun while the bridge was still being designed to accelerate the schedule and shorten the time the road would be closed.

The foundations for each pier are a pair of 9.5ft diameter, permanently cased drilled shafts with 9ft diameter rock sockets.  The sockets are 14ft long into the limestone and shale bedrock.  The limestone uniaxial compressive strengths range from 10,820 psi to 28,100 psi. 

After much design and analysis in a highly compressed schedule, a bridge contract was let for bid in early May 2020, less than 3 months after the slide occurred.  Brasfield & Gorrie was the successful bidder and awarded a $15 million contract that has incentives for finishing early, and disincentives for finishing late. 

 

ALDOT UAV flight June 16, 2020

ALDOT UAV flight July 07, 2020

ALDOT UAV flight July 23, 2020

ALDOT UAV flight July 28, 2020

ALDOT UAV Flight Aug 08, 2020

ALDOT UAV Flight Sep 2, 2020

ALDOT UAV Flight Sep 15, 2020

 

Excavating first shaft on the site (DBA)

 

A.H. Beck (Beck) was the drilled shaft contractor, drilling each shaft, placing reinforcement, and placing concrete.   The 9.5ft diameter permanent casing is 5/8 inch wall thickness spiral weld 60ksi steel fabricated by Nucor in Birmingham, Alabama.  The shafts are reinforced with a 1.5inch wall thickness, 8ft diameter, 60ksi steel pipe. These pipes were rolled and welded by Favor Steel in Birmingham, Alabama before being trucked to the site.  The steel plate was manufactured by SSAB in Axis, Alabama near Mobile.  So, the structural steel pipes were completely Alabama-made and the steel travel almost the length of the state!

8ft diameter x 1.5in wall steel pipe for shaft reinforcement (DBA)

 

Inner structural pipe (1.5in) and outer casing (5/8in) (DBA)

 

The pair of shafts for each pier is connected by a reinforced concrete grade beam 10ft wide by 7ft high by 46ft long. To connect the shafts to the grade beam, a 14ft long reinforcement cage is placed in each shaft, embedded 8ft into the shaft with 6ft embedded in the grade beam. The cage consists of 28 No.18 Grade 75 bars.

Grade beam at NB Bent 7 with column steel (DBA)

 

Completed shaft with reinforcing cage to embed in grade beam (DBA)

 

The project includes a robust instrumentation plan with ShapeArray inclinometers installed in each shaft and in the slope, supplemented by traditional inclinometers in the slope and vibrating piezometers to monitor groundwater levels.  DBA and ALDOT will monitor the bridge and slope, intending to be able to measure displacement and calculate strain and loads in the shafts should the slope move again in the future.

Foundations were completed a few days ahead of schedule at the end of July 2020.  The deadline to have the bridge open to traffic was early December, 2020, but Brasfield and Gorrie had an aggressive plan to complete the project early and earn the bonus for early completion.   The bridge was open to traffic September 28, 2021 to much rejoicing among the commuters and others that use this route.   Volkert was the CE&I Consultant on the project for ALDOT, providing construction management and inspection services for the project, ensuring all requirements were met to build the bridges.

Click HERE for some of the photos DBA team members have taken during construction.

To see aerial views from ALDOT’s UAV flight taken on July 10, 2020, click HERE.

 

 

NCHRP Synthesis 547 – Advancements in Use of Geophysical Methods for Transportation Projects

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has released a synthesis report prepared by Brent L. Rosenblad and Andrew Z. Boeckmann (Andy is now with DBA) on geophysical methods for transportation projects: NCHRP Synthesis 547, Advancements in Use of Geophysical Methods for Transportation Projects.  The report is an updated summary of the state of practice with regard to geophysical methods in the transportation industry and includes a matrix of geophysical methods and applications. They conducted a survey of state DOTs and selected frequent users of geophysics to analyze “the common use methods and applications, challenges, and lessons learned.”

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

Rosenblad, B.L. and Boeckmann, A.Z. (2020). NCHRP Synthesis 547, Advancements in Use of Geophysical Methods for Transportation Projects, Transportation Research Board, National Academies, Washington, D.C.

DBA Project Highlight: MoDOT I-44 Project Bridge Rebuild

I-44 Construction Aerial View; video courtesy of Emery Sapp & Sons

DBA has partnered with bridge designer Parsons and prime contractor Emery Sapp & Sons on a design/build project in Southwest Missouri being administered by MoDOT.  Design is complete and the project is in construction phase.  The project involves replacing 13 bridges and rehabilitating another six bridges along a 30-mile stretch of I-44 between Sarcoxie and Halltown.  The $36 million project is progressing nicely with construction beginning in 2019 and on schedule to be completed by December 15, 2021. To get a birds-eye view of some of the work, check out the video at the top of the post (from Emery Sapp & Sons)

Although smaller bridges than DBA typically works on, challenging subsurface conditions and unique structure types have made things interesting with respect to foundation design and construction.  Foundation types for various structures include driven H-piles installed with high-strain dynamic testing, drilled shafts with rock sockets in various rock formations, and spread footings bearing on near surface bedrock where applicable.  Pinnacle bedrock surface and karstic foundation conditions are prevalent in the area and this project is no exception.  Foundation design had to anticipate the complex subsurface conditions and consider constructability throughout the entire design process.

More information on the project can be found at MoDOT’s project page:  https://www.modot.org/i-44-project-bridge-rebuild .  Below are some photos taken by DBA staff while on site.

Photo Credit: DBA

 

DBA Announces Officer Transitions

DBA is excited to announce recent transitions within the company.

Dan Brown, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, is turning over the reigns of leadership to the next generation in the firm and stepping down as President.   While stepping back from day-to-day management of the company, Dan will remain fully involved in technical aspects and client service in the role of Chief Engineer where he will continue to focus on developing practical solutions to complex and challenging foundation issues.

Three Senior Principal Engineers will assume the roles of the officers of DBA.  Tim Siegel, P.E., G.E., D.GE  has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer.   Paul Axtell, P.E., D.GE has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer.  Robert Thompson, P.E., D.GE has been promoted to Chief Financial Officer.   Tim, Paul, and Robert will provide the management and leadership for the continued growth of DBA and for DBA to provide value to its clients and continue to be a key contributor to the practice of geotechnical engineering.

Tim Siegel, CEO Paul Axtell, COO Robert Thompson, CFO

 

DBA Grows – 2020 Edition!

DBA is happy to announce our two latest additions to the team: Dan Ding, Ph.D., P.E. and Andy Boekmann, Ph.D., P.E.  Dan joined us as a Project Engineer in October of 2019 while Andy came on board as a Senior Engineer in February of this year.   Read a little bit about both of them below.  Go to our About us page to see their resume as well as everyone else on the DBA Team.

Dan Ding, Ph.D., P.E.

Dan received her Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri. Dan specializes in site characterization, geotechnical laboratory testing, Load and Resistance Factor Design, and reliability analysis. Before joining DBA, Dan worked as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Missouri to teach undergraduate and graduate engineering courses as well as conduct national and state research projects. She also worked as a laboratory geotechnical engineer at Geocomp in Acton, MA for a year after graduation.  Dan is based in Columbia, Missouri.

Andy Boeckmann, Ph.D., P.E.

Prior to joining DBA, Andy was a research engineer at the University of Missouri, where he performed research on topics including post-grouted drilled shafts, reliability of geotechnical designs, foundation reuse, and geotechnical asset management. Andy also earned a Ph.D. at the University of Missouri; his dissertation examined the reliability of foundation designs based on site-specific load tests. Andy is the lead author of two NCHRP Synthesis reports, including Current Practices and Guidelines for the Reuse of Bridge Foundations. Prior to working at MU, Andy was a consulting geotechnical engineer for URS Corp. in St. Louis, where he performed design and analysis for large projects, including post-Hurricane Katrina levee design in New Orleans. Andy is an active member of the Deep Foundations Institute, including serving as the vice-chair of the Subsurface Characterization Committee.  He is also based in Columbia, Missouri.

FHWA GEC 10 Update for 2018 Released!

UPDATE!  Posting of the PDF to the FHWA Resource page has been delayed while the formatting issues noted below are worked out. 

CLICK HERE for a Final DRAFT for use until FINAL document is posted by FHWA.

The long anticipated update to FHWA GEC 10 Drilled Shafts: Construction Procedures and Design Methods has finally been released by FHWA, The same team that authored the major update in 2010 that shifted design from ASD to LRFD also completed this update: Dr. Dan Brown, P.E., D.GE, and Dr. John Turner, P.E., D.GE of DBA, Dr. Erik Loehr, P.E. of the University of Missouri and DBA, and Mr. Ray Castelli, P.E. of WSP.

This version is an update of the 2010 publication.  A complete list of changes made since 2010 is in the opening chapter.  Some of the revisions include:

  • streamlining materials covered in other GEC publications (for example, site investigation and lateral loading) to focus on aspects particular or unique to drilled shafts;
  • updates to reflect the evolution of construction procedures, tooling, materials, drilling fluids, and concrete placement;
  • updated design equations for axial loading, particularly for earthquake loading;
  • updated group design to reflect recent changes to AASHTO design guidelines;
  • updates on integrity testing (including use of Thermal Integrity Profiling, or TIP); and,
  • an outline for a process for assessment and acceptance of drilled shafts based on inspection records and integrity tests.

You can download the new PDF here.  The PDF posted is “preliminary” with some minor formatting and other items to be cleaned up by the fall.

2018 Tennessee Earthquake GEER Report

Tim Siegel was one of four co-leaders of a Geotechnical Extreme Events  Reconnaissance (GEER) team that investigated the impacts of the 2018 Tennessee Earthquake that occurred near Decatur, Tennessee on December 12, 2018.   Among the team members were Ali Leib and Mark Madget.  The team performed reconnaissance of the area around the epicenter of the quake and prepared a report of their observations.

The quake occurred at 4:14 am EST approximately 12 km north-northeast of Decatur, Tennessee, which is about 240 km southeast of Nashville, TN.  The highest recorded peak ground acceleration (PGA) was 0.0215g approximately 36 km from the epicenter.  At least 21 aftershocks were recorded through December 18, 2018.  The GEER team did not encounter any evidence of earthquake-induced damage in the areas they visited.  Organizations such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) , and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) “reported that either there was no damage to their facilities or that their operations were unaffected due to earthquake.”

The team’s report can be downloaded from GEER here.  Click the image below to see the list of the entire team.

GEER is a “volunteer organization of geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists, and earth scientists from academia, industry, government organizations, and non-profit organizations.”  They assemble teams to conduct detailed reconnaissance after extreme events (earthquakes, landslides, floods, hurricanes, etc.) in order “to  obtain valuable perishable information that can be used to advance research and improve engineering practice.”

To find out more about GEER, visit their website.

Pre-Bid Load Testing for the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Public Private Partnership (P3) Project

DBA has been fortunate to be involved as a consult to Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) for the  Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project.  This project represents Alabama’s largest ever investment for a single infrastructure project.  The project includes a cable stayed bridge over the Mobile River and seven miles of bridge over Mobile Bay.  Bridge foundations therefore represent a major component of the estimated $2 billion project cost.  DBA serves as a foundation consultant under subcontract to Thompson Engineering, Inc..  Thompson is one of the ALDOT Advisory Team partners, the other partners being HDR and Mott MacDonald.

With the tremendous volume of foundations required for the project, the DBA/Thompson team worked with ALDOT’s Geotechnical Division to develop a pre-bid load test program to help reduce some of the risks that would face both ALDOT and prospective concessionaires.  Performing a deep foundation load test program during the procurement phase of a Public Private Partnership (P3) project can help the prospective concessionaires better define foundation design parameters and reduce uncertainties and risks related to constructability of the foundations.  The reduced risk leads to reduced costs by allowing the concessionaire to develop a more efficient design while minimizing contingency costs and potential delays related to foundation constructability or performance.

The load test program was designed to include the most likely foundation types that the prospective teams might use.  Several types of driven piles were installed and tested, including typical square and cylinder concrete piles used on the Alabama coast plus steel H-piles and an open-ended steel pipe pile.

All driven piles were subject to dynamic testing with a Pile Driving Analyzer during driving.  Restrikes with dynamic testing were conducted on all driven piles to evaluate potential strength gain with time.  Jetting techniques were specified for some piles to evaluate this installation technique which could potentially be used during construction.

Traditional axial static load tests were performed on steel HP14x89 and 18in Precast Prestressed Concrete (PPC) square piles.  Rapid (Statnamic) axial load tests were performed on 36 in PCC square piles, 54in PCC cylinder, and 60in steel open-end pipe piles.

A 72in diameter drilled shaft foundation was also installed and tested.  Axial load testing was done using a bi-directional load cell (AFT A-Cell).  Lateral load testing was done using the Statnamic device.

 

Here are some videos of the Statnamic testing, with slow motion action!

 

Foundation contractors that are part of a concessionaire team pursuing the project were allowed to bid the load test program.  Jordan Pile Driving was the successful bidder for the $3.7 million test project.  AFT provided the testing services for the project – dynamic, static, Statnamic, and A-Cell.

A summary of the results can be found in a presentation made to ALDOT at the 62nd Annual Alabama Transportation Conference on February 13, 2019.   (Click HERE to get the presentation). Publication of the results is anticipated to be made in the DFI Journal in the future.

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