Investigating the Need for Drainage Layers in Flexible Pavements

2019-06-10T17:32:22Z (GMT) by Masoud Seyed Mohammad Ghavami

Moisture can significantly affect flexible pavement performance. As such, it is crucial to remove moisture as quickly as possible from the pavements, mainly to avoid allowing moisture into the pavement subgrade. In the 1990s the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) adopted an asphalt pavement drainage system consisting of an open-graded asphalt drainage layer connected to edge drains and collector pipes to remove moisture from the pavement system.

Over the intervening two decades, asphalt pavement materials and designs have dramatically changed in Indiana, and the effectiveness of the pavements drainage system may have changed. Additionally, there are challenges involved in producing and placing open-graded asphalt drainage layers. They can potentially increase costs, and they tend to have lower strength than traditional dense-graded asphalt pavement layers.

Given the potential difficulties, the overall objective of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of the INDOT’s current flexible pavement drainage systems given the changes to pavement cross-sections and materials that have occurred since the open-graded drainage layer was adopted. Additionally, the effectiveness of the filter layer and edge drains were examined.


Laboratory experiments were performed to obtain the hydraulic properties of field-produced asphalt mixture specimens meeting INDOT’s current specifications. The results were used in finite element modeling of moisture flow through pavement sections. Modeling was also performed to investigate the rutting performance of the drainage layers under various traffic loads and subgrade moisture conditions in combination with typical Indiana subgrade soils. The modeling results were used to develop a design tool that can assist the pavement designer in more accurately assessing the need for pavement drainage systems in flexible pavements.