Assessment of Wave Impacts on Highway Embankments due to Hurricanes/Tropical Storms in Coastal Louisiana

Geosynthetic-reinforced highway embankments are often built on expansive clays along the Louisiana shorelines. An embankment is often reinforced using articulating concrete mats and geosynthetic separator fabrics, consisting of planar reinforcements arranged in horizontal planes in the fill to resist outward movements of the fill. Facing treatments ranging from vegetation to flexible armor systems are applied to prevent unraveling and sloughing of the face. These embankments are different from regular levees or embankments in the sense that they are subjected to high current and large wave pressures, as well as pore water pressure conditions, especially under extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms. This one-year study will only focus on the analysis of wave pressure and the development of wave pressure envelopes that can be used in the design of coastal embankments as well as for assessing the vulnerability of existing embankments due to wave loads from hurricanes. The PI and his graduate students have been collaborating with the Coastal Protection and Recovery Authorities of Louisiana (CPRA) on research projects funded by the Louisiana Sea Grant for more than ten years. In this project, long-term measurements provided by the CPRA on wave behavior and design parameters for containment dikes will be examined and applied to the present study on coastal highway embankments. The goal is to quantify the impact of wave pressure on highway embankments using innovative data analysis. The following commonly employed methods will be used in these analyses: Goda Design Method, Minikin Design Method, and Blackmore and Hewson Design Method. Based on these analyses, a practical method for the distribution of wave pressure on embankments will be developed. These distributions will then be combined to produce wave pressure envelopes, which reflect the worst wave pressure conditions for selected hurricanes and tropical storms of different categories, experienced during the last 20 years. This research project will lead to a more accurate and reliable design approach for geosynthetic-reinforced embankments subjected to wave pressures from hurricanes or tropical storms. The following tasks will be carried out in this year-long project: (1) Collect and review the integrated field observations and modeling data from ADV and wave gauges (e.g., wind wave, velocity, and water levels, etc.) at the specific sites in coastal Louisiana experienced during specific hurricanes, such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ida; (2) Compute the time-dependent dynamic wave/current pressure distributions on the faces of selected highway embankments based on the measured data from specific hurricanes, following the three methods noted above; (3) Find the maximum wave pressure at each point on the surface of the embankment based on the analyses in Task 2. Use these maximum wave pressure values to generate a wave envelope; (4) Develop two or three wave pressure envelopes corresponding to the hurricanes and tropical storms of different categories, which were recorded in coastal Louisiana during the past 20 years; (5) Recommend the developed wave pressure envelops to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LA DOTD) as standardized wave pressure loads for different categories of hurricanes, for future designs of coastal highway embankments as well as for assessing vulnerability of existing embankments under future extreme events. The innovative idea of a pressure envelope will lead to an improved method for wave pressure calculations. Step-by-step procedures will be provided in an MS Excel spreadsheet or a MATLAB-based tool. Both CPRA and LA DOTD are expected to be engaged and benefit from this study’s outputs. This project addresses the USDOT Strategic Goal of Climate and Sustainability. The MS Excel spreadsheet or the MATLAB-based tool will allow designers to estimate wave loading due to hurricanes or tropical storms more accurately.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $58000
  • Contract Numbers:



  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Southern Plains Transportation Center

    University of Oklahoma
    201 Stephenson Pkwy, Suite 4200
    Norman, OK  United States  73019
  • Project Managers:

    Dunn, Denise

  • Performing Organizations:

    Louisiana Tech University, Ruston

    Ruston, LA  United States  71272
  • Principal Investigators:

    Wang, Jay

  • Start Date: 20231001
  • Expected Completion Date: 20240930
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01899351
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Southern Plains Transportation Center
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3552348306, CY1-LTU-03
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Nov 15 2023 6:05PM