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This paper is written with two basic objectives in mind. First, it is written to promote the use of geosynthetics on rural, low-volume roads where these materials seem under-utilized. Second, this paper will document the many useful, cost-effective, and often creative applications of geosynthetics used on low-volume roads. Geosynthetics have been used in a wide range of applications on rural and forest roads across America over the past 40 years. Some of the earliest uses involved reinforcement in simple walls, drainage/filtration in geocomposite underdrains, and subgrade stabilization on forest roads. These early efforts were typically “experimental”. Over time geosynthetic use became better defined by function, where use was specified for drainage, filtration, separation, or reinforcement. Road uses commonly involved separation of soft subgrade soils and aggregate, and as reinforcement in mechanically stabilized structures.
New combinations of materials have been developed, such as drainage geocomposites, multi-layer filters, lateral, in-plane drainage, geogrids with geotextiles, geofoam, geocells, and many applications in erosion control. Much more attention is given today to quality control and properties testing to better characterize the materials. Although use of geosynthetics has gained wide acceptance in many sectors of civil engineering and highway construction, their use is still limited on rural roads, both nationally and internationally. Because of the many useful aspects of geosynthetics in engineering design, their uses as part of “best engineering practices” are valuable to make roads last their design life, be cost- effective, and be more resilient in this time of climate change.