Surprises And Solutions When Driving Piles In Mountain Valleys Of Vermont

Lens, John E.
Organization: Deep Foundations Institute
Pages: 12
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2007
Driving bridge foundation piles into glacio-fluvial sands and gravels and glacial tills brought surprisingly longer than predicted driving lengths on several recent projects in Vermont. In some instances, piles drove more than 40 feet past refusal depths predicted from Standard Penetration Resistances from borings terminating in glacial till. Overall, piles developed substantially less skin friction than predicted using common capacity formulas and drove as much as 80 feet longer than predicted in the moderate to dense gravelly and cobbly soils. These piles were driven for one to five span highway bridges within narrow valleys with bedrock ranging from 80 to over 200 feet deep. Piles were for both conventional and integral abutment bridges. H-piles were used for a variety of reasons including lower unit cost, better availability, and better ability to drive through cobbly soils in upper strata. Dynamic testing was used to evaluate capacity, including skin friction and end bearing capacity. In order to develop better pile length and capacity predictions for future projects, VTrans and one of their geotechnical consultants are collaborating to develop criteria for improved pile capacity predictions in these river valleys. We are doing this by evaluating driving and dynamic testing data from four projects in comparison with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) DRIVEN pile design software, and methods from Myerhof (1976) and Tomlinson (1981). Our overall objective is to provide a basis for choosing appropriate pile types and reliably estimating pile lengths for projects in this terrain. Bridge foundation design projects in other mountainous terrain share similar design and construction challenges to those encountered in these Vermont projects. These include: difficult exploration drill rig access requiring smaller rigs with limited capability to drill through cobbles and boulders deep enough to reach bedrock; limited experience with displacement piles as alternatives to H-piles in this geology; and relatively greater variability in soil stratigraphy between foundations at these sites as a consequence of the relatively high energy depositional environment in mountainous terrain. This paper presents the case history summaries of the pile driving, results of the ?back analysis? capacity evaluations, examples of solutions employed on these projects to address the lower capacities achieved, and resulting pile capacity design guidelines and prediction criteria for these geologic conditions based on data from these projects.
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