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MECHANISTIC-EMPIRICAL PAVEMENT DESIGN

The Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide is one of the more recent tools for the design and rehabilitation of pavement structures. The Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide was developed to improve on the traditional pavement design procedures presented earlier in this chapter (AASHTO Guide for Design of Pavement Structures) by providing the ability to predict multiple pavement-performance measures (such as rut depth, various types of cracking, joint faulting, International Roughness Index, etc.) and providing a direct link among pavement elements (materials, structural design, construction, traffic, climate and pavement management practices).

Unlike the traditional pavement-design procedures presented earlier in this chapter, the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide is quite complex and must be done using a software package (the software package is referred to simply as MEPDG, standing for Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide). The design of pavements with MEPDG is an iterative process that can be summarized as follows:

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1. The design engineer first selects a pavement structure (layer thicknesses, etc.), often using the traditional AASHTO approach.

2. Various inputs needed for MEPDG pavement assessment are then gathered and classified in the following broad topic groupings (please note that this is a much more time-intensive effort than the traditional AASHTO pavement design approach demonstrated earlier in this chapter):

a. General project information. For this, factors such as base/subbase construction month, pavement construction month, and month that the pavement is open to traffic are needed because these factors can affect pavement-performance criteria.

b. Design criteria and reliability level. For design criteria, the level of tolerable distress such as cracking, faulting, International Roughness Index are needed (these criteria roughly replace the TSI in the traditional AASHTO pavement design). The reliability level needed is similar to that currently used in the traditional AASHTO process.

c. Site conditions and factors. Here, information is needed on truck traffic (including axle-load distributions, speed limit to account for the effect of truck speed on pavement distress, and monthly and hourly distributions of truck-travel), climate (including hourly temperature, precipitation, wind speed, relative humidity, and cloud cover), and detailed soil information (strength, variability, etc.).

d. Material properties. Detailed information on new-pavement material properties is needed. This information is along the lines of the structural coefficient values and concrete-strength measurements used in the traditional AASHTO pavement design (although at a significantly higher level of detail).

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