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NOTE: “Stabilization of Paved Roads Using Geosynthetics” was presented by Prof. Jorge Zornberg (IGS Past President) at GeoAmericas 2016 in Miami as part of the prestigious Mercer Lecture Series. Learn more about the Mercer Lecture and access others at From the Executive Summary: Geosynthetics have been used as reinforcement inclusions to improve pavement performance. While there are clear field evidences of the benefit of using geosynthetic reinforcements, the specific conditions or mechanisms that govern the reinforcement of pavements are, at best, unclear and have remained largely unmeasured. Significant research has been recently conducted with the objectives of: (i) determining the relevant properties of geosynthetics that contribute to the enhanced performance of pavement systems, (ii) developing appropriate analytical, laboratory and field methods capable of quantifying the pavement performance, and (iii) enabling the prediction of pavement performance as a function of the properties of the various types of geosynthetics. Geosynthetics have been used in pavement design to address the functions of separation, filtration, lateral drainage, sealing, and reinforcement. Specifically, geosynthetics have been used for separation in pavement projects to minimize intrusion of subgrade soil into the aggregate base or sub-base. Also, geosynthetics have been used to perform a filtration function by restricting the movement of soil particles from the subgrade while allowing water to move to the coarser adjacent base material. In-plane drainage function of a geosynthetic can provide lateral drainage within its plane. In addition, geosynthetics have been used to mitigate the propagation of cracks by sealing the asphalt layer when used in pavement overlays. Finally, geosynthetics have been used in flexible pavements for reinforcement, which is the main focus of this paper. While the reinforcement function has often been accomplished using geogrids, geotextiles have also been used as reinforcement inclusions in transportation applications. The geosynthetic reinforcement is often placed at the interface between the base and sub-base layers or the interface between the sub-base and subgrade layers or within the base course layer of the flexible pavement. This leads to lower stresses over the subgrade than in unreinforced flexible pavements. Download the document for more. The improved performance of the pavement due to geosynthetic reinforcement has been attributed to three mechanisms: (1) lateral restraint, (2) increased bearing capacity, and (3) tensioned membrane effect. The primary mechanism associated with the reinforcement function for flexible pavements is lateral restraint or confinement. The name of this mechanism may be misleading as lateral restraint develops through interfacial friction between the geosynthetic and the aggregate, thus the mechanism is one of a shear-resisting interface. When an aggregate layer is subjected to traffic loading, the aggregate tends to move laterally unless it is restrained by the subgrade or by geosynthetic reinforcement. Interaction between the base aggregate and the geosynthetic allows transfer of the shearing load from the base layer to a tensile load in the geosynthetic. The tensile stiffness of the geosynthetic limits the lateral strains in the base layer. Furthermore, a geosynthetic layer confines the base course layer thereby increasing its mean stress and leading to an increase in shear strength. Both frictional and interlocking characteristics at the interface between the soil and the geosynthetic contribute to this mechanism. Consequently, the geogrid apertures and base soil particles must be properly sized. A geotextile with good frictional capabilities can also provide tensile resistance to lateral aggregate movement.