Investigation of Premature Concrete Pavement Distress on the Pan-American Highway in El Salvador

Paper by RUIZ RASMUSSEN from ISCR 10th 2006 Brussels Belgium

In 2005, a forensic engineering study was conducted on a recently constructed concrete pavement located along the Pan-American Highway (CA-1) in El Salvador. The primary distress was observed to be full-depth cracking, predominantly in the longitudinal direction. This type of cracking was noted to occur just a few months after construction, and has continued to occur despite attempts at repair. This paper summarizes an investigation to identify the sources of this distress. Based on the information that was collected during this project, it is believed that the primary mechanism of failure in this project can be attributed to the presence of swelling soils. Unique to select locations around the world, swelling soils can lead to significant movements underneath a pavement structure as the moisture state changes due to dry and wet cycles during the year. The presence of these soils, combined with the unique climate in El Salvador, is believed to be the root cause of this distress. There are both unique resources and unique constraints inherent with a project such as this in the country of El Salvador. Although a number of mitigation options are available, selection of the ideal solution can prove to be a challenge.

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