Revised Clear-Water and Live-Bed Contraction Scour Analysis

Current guidance in Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 18 (HEC-18), "Evaluating Scour at Bridges," (Arneson et al. 2012) provides equations for estimating contraction scour.  Existing equations are based on sediment transport theory using approaches developed by Laursen, 1960 (live-bed contraction scour) and Laursen, 1963 (clear-water contraction scour).  Both equations assume that the scour is due solely to the contraction effect and that local effects are negligible (i.e., that the contraction is hydraulically "long"). Depending on the ratio of the length of contraction L to the approach channel width b1, (L/b1) channel contractions are designated as long or short.  In a short contraction, local scour occurs throughout the contracted section as a result of large-scale turbulent flow structures created at the entrance to the contraction, and the total scour is the result of both the contraction and local effects. Analysis of existing laboratory data sets conducted under NCHRP Project 24-34, "Risk-Based Approach for Bridge Scour Prediction" revealed that the clear-water contraction scour equation does not envelope the observed data as a design equation.  Rather, it is a predictive equation which is seen to under predict observed scour relatively frequently compared to pier and abutment scour equations.  No laboratory data sets of live-bed contraction scour were identified during NCHRP Project 24-34. NCHRP Project 24-34 found that all of the previous studies suffered from a flaw in the experimental design, as none actually measured the depth of flow y0 in the contracted section before scour began to occur.  Therefore, this value had to be estimated in order to determine the depth of scour.  In addition, a number of laboratory studies did not directly measure the depth of scour using bed elevation measurements.  Instead, the assumption was made that y₀ was equal to y₁ (the depth of flow in the approach section upstream of the contraction).  This assumption ignores the hydraulic drawdown effect in the contraction which occurs during subcritical flow (particularly in a bridge reach). A contraction scour design approach for various bed materials is needed. Separating hydraulic erosion forces from the soil erosion resistance is needed to help determine a more realistic scour depth. The objective of this research was to develop live-bed and clear-water contraction scour equations suitable for use in risk-based bridge design for a wide range of hydraulic conditions, contraction ratios, and bed material (cohesive, non-cohesive and rock–see Special Note H) and gradation uniformities.

  • Record URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • NCHRP Research Report 971: Revised Clear-Water and Live-Bed Contraction Scour Analysis and  NCHRP Web-Only Document 294: Revised Clear-Water and Live-Bed Contraction Scour Analysis Training Manual are available for immediate use. 


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $500000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 24-47

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

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

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

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

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

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

    Crichton-Sumners, Camille

  • Performing Organizations:

    Ayres Associates, Incorporated

  • Principal Investigators:

    Lagasse, Peter

  • Start Date: 20161006
  • Expected Completion Date: 20190406
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 40229

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01572340
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 24-47
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Aug 6 2015 1:00AM