Water and Heat Transport in Road Structures : Development of Mechanistic Models

Abstract: The coupled transport of water and heat, involving freezing and thawing, in the road structure and its immediate environment is important to consider for optimal design and maintenance of roads and when assessing solute transport, of e.g. de-icing salt, from roads. The objective of this study was to develop mechanistic models, and measurement techniques, suitable to describe and understand water flow and heat flux in road structures exposed to a cold climate. Freezing and thawing was accounted for by implementing new routines in two numerical models (HYDRUS1D/2D). The sensitivity of the model output to changes in parameter values and operational hydrological data was investigated by uncertainty and sensitivity analyses. The effect of rainfall event characteristics and asphalt fractures on the subsurface flow pattern was investigated by scenario modelling. The performance of water content reflectometers (WCR), measuring water content, was evaluated using measurements in two road structure materials. A numerical model was used to simulate WCR sensor response. The freezing/thawing routines were stable and provided results in agreement with laboratory measurements. Frost depth, thawing period, and freezing-induced water redistribution in a model road was greatly affected by groundwater level and type of subgrade. The simulated subsurface flow patterns corresponded well with published field observations. A new method was successful in enabling the application of time domain reflectometer (TDR) calibration equations to WCR output. The observed distortion in sampling volume for one of the road materials could be explained by the WCR sensor numerical model. Soil physical, hydrological, and hydraulic modules proved successful in simulating the coupled transport of water and heat in and on the road structure. It was demonstrated in this thesis that numerical models can improve the interpretation and explanation of measurements. The HYDRUS model was an accurate and pedagogical tool, clearly useful in road design and management.