(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To read more in detail about the design and construction of the bridge foundations, we published an article i nthe April 2021 issue of Foundation Drilling Magazine: