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National Transportation Center

Sustainable Design of Concrete Bus Pads to Improve Mobility in Baltimore City

Project Abstract

Public transit, particularly buses in Baltimore City, plays a vital role in sustainable transportation in the United States as well as providing mobility to those without cars. Bus pads are usually constructed in the street, adjacent to a bus zone, to accommodate the weight of a bus. Bus pads are highly durable areas of the roadway surface at bus stops, usually made of concrete, addressing the common issue of asphalt distortion at bus stops. These concrete slabs bear the burden of the daily stream of buses better than asphalt. The major problem with the asphalt bus pads is shifting asphalt creating waves or ripples under buses' weight, and when asphalt shifts, it cracks and can create potholes. Roadway pavements need to be strong enough to accommodate repetitive bus axle loads. Exact pavement designs will depend on site specific soil conditions. Areas where buses start, stop, and turn will be of particular concern for pavement design. Concrete pavement is desirable in these areas to avoid the failure problems that are experienced with asphalt. Concrete bus pads should be constructed based on the bus service frequency and type of transit vehicle used. However, if the concrete bus pad is not properly designed, it will encounter different problems with serviceability and strength of the slab.

During a case study in Baltimore City that was used to collect preliminary data for the proposed research, it was observed that most of the concrete bus pads require more than regular routine maintenance due to surface cracks and local failure, resulting in major replacement costs for Baltimore City. Lack of appropriate load identification and definition of critical load scenarios for the appropriate design of the concrete bus pad were noted as shortcomings in addition to the design assumption of uniform distribution of soil pressure under the concrete slab, which was not the case noted in the field.

This research carried out a field study and extracted two concrete strips in longitudinal and transvers axis from a bus pad in Baltimore. The concrete strips were tested at the Structures Laboratory of Morgan State University, under a four-point bending produced by two concentrated monotonic loads. The load and deflection were measured using precise instruments including LVDTs and load cells to investigate the concrete strips' performances under the applied load until failure. All load cases and combinations were identified and determined based on possible loading scenarios. A numerical model was developed and soil-structure interaction was studied using the Winkler method. The maximum design forces and moments were extracted from the FE model, which considers the effect of moving loads on a two-way slab as well as the temperature. This research evaluated the load-bearing capacity of the current design of Baltimore bus pads and compared it to the tested strips as well as the required bending capacity of FE models. Results show that both design and construction of bus pads in Baltimore need to be modified. In conclusion, design and construction recommendations were proposed to enhance bus pads' life span in Baltimore City to address the current issues and reduce maintenance costs.

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Outputs and Outcomes

This research developed a numerical model to study moment forces and soil structure interaction and then developed best practices and recommendations for the design and construction of concrete bus pads.

Universities and Sponsoring Organizations Involved

Morgan State University

Principal Investigators

Dr. Kadir Aslan, Dr. Mehdi Shokouhian

Funding Sources and Amounts

U.S. DOT: $50,000; Morgan State University: $25,000

Start Date

July 1, 2018

Completion Date

March 2, 2019


bus pad, concrete slab, surface crack, experimental methods, finite element modelling, wheel axle loads