Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Problems. Topic 45-01. Service Life of Culverts

This study will update Synthesis 254, Service Life of Drainage Pipe (1996), which in turn updated National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 50, Durability of Drainage Pipe (1978). The culvert industry and research community has produced in the last 15 years significant developments in plastic pipe, fiber-reinforced concrete pipe, polymeric-coated metal pipe, recycled materials, larger and more diverse structures, and sophisticated analytical soil-structure interaction modeling. As such, there is a growing need for a new study of the service life of culverts. For the purposes of this study, service life is the time duration during which a culvert is expected to provide the desired function with a specified level of maintenance established at the design or retrofit stage. The selection of alternate culvert or materials for a particular site is based on the material's ability to satisfy the requirements of five selection criteria: (1) Structural design, (2) Hydraulic design, (3) Environmental and site considerations, (4) Joint performance, and (5) Service life (durability). Significant published works provide guidance for the first three criteria and NCHRP Project 15-38 and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) 20-07 Task 347 address joint performance. Service life is the remaining criterion that will be addressed by this synthesis study. No consensus exists among the state departments of transportation (DOTs) on the definition of service life and/or the required time frame of service. Predictive models are often parameterized to specific geographic and environmental considerations. Design service lives range from 15 to 100 years based most often on site conditions, traffic volume, or functional classification of roadways. Material service life models developed for different pipe materials are inconsistent and do not relate to limit state (failure mode) or service distresses adversely affecting both structural and hydraulic performance, including cold-weather induced distresses. The following information will be gathered and synthesized: (1) The required service life for the culvert in varying conditions, including the basis for determining the service life (e.g. average daily traffic (ADT), accessibility, cost of future repair) and any additional design parameters based on the service life. (e.g. oversizing for slip-lining). This will include considerations of maintenance. (2) The conditions constituting the end of useful service life for various culvert installations, including but not limited to materials, soil/backfill properties, hydraulic performance, and appurtenances. (3) The time for a particular material to reach the end of its useful service life, and (4) Information on the how the following are correlated and/or implemented- a. Material service life, and b. Culvert failure limit states This synthesis final report will do the following: (1) Update NCHRP Synthesis 254, Service Life of Drainage Pipe; (2) Build upon the significant start of AASHTO 20-07 Task 264, Guidance for Design and Selection of Pipes; (3) Review AASHTO/DOT, TRB/NCRHP, industry, and other published literature for methodologies used to establish service life and material service life; (4) Provide definitions of the end of useful service life for culvert materials in a rational and implementable form; (5) Provide a catalog of models for determining service life of culvert materials; (6) Provide an example of how the material in the report might be used to predict service life of a hypothetical culvert selection; and (7) Identify gaps in knowledge and future research needs, which may include preparation of a formal NCHRP research problem statement. Information will be gathered by literature review and survey of state transportation agencies, including Canadian provinces.(See NCHRP 10-86 for possible survey recipients). An initial screening survey will be sent to the AASHTO Highway Subcommittee on Maintenance to determine who are the most appropriate recipients (100% response is required).


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-05, Topic

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Williams, Jon

  • Performing Organizations:

    Golder Associates, Incorporated

  • Principal Investigators:

    Maher, Michael

  • Start Date: 20131102
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 37754

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01543753
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-05, Topic
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Nov 21 2014 1:03AM