Reliability-based Design Procedure for Flexible Pavements

Abstract: Load induced top-down fatigue cracking has been recognized recently as a major distress phenomenon in asphalt pavements. This failure mode has been observed in many parts of the world, and in some regions, it was found to be more prevalent and a primary cause of pavements failure. The main factors which are identified as potential causes of top down fatigue cracking are primarily linked to age hardening, mixtures fracture resistance and unbound layers stiffness. Mechanistic Empirical analytical models, which are based on hot mix asphalt fracture mechanics (HMA-FM) and that could predict crack initiation time and propagation rate, have been developed and shown their capacity in delivering acceptable predictions. However, in these methods, the effect of age hardening and healing is not properly accounted and moreover, these models do not consider the effect of mixture morphology influence on long term pavement performance. Another drawback of these models is, as analysis tools they are not suitable to be used for pavement design purpose. The main objective of this study is to develop a reliability calibrated design framework in load resistance factor design (LRFD) format which could be implemented to design pavement sections against top down fatigue cracking.For this purpose, asphalt mixture morphology based sub-models were developed and incorporated to HMA-FM to characterize the effect of aging and degradation on fracture resistance and healing potential. These sub-models were developed empirically exploiting the observed relation that exist between mixture morphology and fracture resistance. The developed crack initiation prediction model was calibrated and validated using pavement sections that have high quality laboratory data and observed field performance history. As traffic volume was identified in having a dominant influence on predicted performance, two separate model calibration and validation studies were undertaken based on expected traffic volume. The predictions result for both model calibration and validation was found to be in an excellent agreement with the observed performance in the field.A LRFD based design framework was suggested that could be implemented to optimize pavement sections against top-down fatigue cracking. To achieve this objective, pavement sections with various design target reliabilities and functional requirements were analyzed and studied.  A simplified but efficient limit state equation was generated using a central composite design (CCD) based response surface methodology, and FORM based reliability analysis was implemented to compute reliabilities and formulate associated partial safety factors. A design example using the new partial safety factors have clearly illustrated the potential of the new method, which could be used to supplement existing design procedures.