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Minimal guardrail lengths to develop tension over culvert

State IA
Description Text

We have a
situation where guardrail is being attached to a short bridge and is acting as
the bridge rail, though we also see similar issues with culverts, and there is
a question regarding how long of an installation is needed on either side of
the bridge or culvert to develop enough tension in the system. I can somewhat
gather that for a TL-3 system, 62.5’ is the minimum needed on the upstream and
downstream ends beyond the obstacle, assuming a typical end terminal as shown
in the attached standards. Please confirm or provide guidance.


The project in
question is leaning towards a TL-2 installation (gravel road, very low volume)
and the same question remains; what would the minimum combined length of w-beam
and end terminal typically need to be to correctly anchor and tension the
system for a TL-2 installation?


For a very
generic layout, see attached.


Thanks for your


  • Guardrail
Other Keywords Culvert
Date August 26, 2015
Attachment Generic Layout.pdf
Attachment eba205.pdf
Attachment eba206.pdf


We have looked into minimum system length for the MGS in the past as well as made recommendation regarding minimum system lengths for long span guardrails over culverts with reduced span lengths from the 25 ft unsupported span that was crashed tested. There are three factors that come into play.


1.       Lateral Extent of the Area of Concern, the Guardrail Runout Length, and length-of-need (LON) as determined by the Roadside Design Guide (RDG) must be considered when factoring in minimum system lengths. Often a guardrail system may be able to redirect vehicles at lengths less that that required to adequately shield the hazard. As such, determination of length should start here. If the runout lengths are short enough to consider s shorter barrier system, then a couple of other factors need to be considered.


2.       Minimum system length required for capture and redirection.


The MGS Long-Span Guardrail System over culverts was successfully crash tested and evaluated according to the Test Level 3 (TL-3) safety performance criteria found in MASH. For this testing program, the overall system length was 175 ft, including 75 ft of tangent rail upstream from the long span, a 25-ft long unsupported length, and 75 ft of tangent rail downstream from the long span. As part of the final recommendations, MwRSF had noted to provide a minimum “tangent” guardrail length adjacent to the unsupported length of 62.5 ft. While your installation does not appear to use the long span system, similar logic may apply.


A recent MASH crash testing program on a minimum length version of the MGS suggests that there may reason to consider potentially reducing the 75-ft total guardrail length on the upstream and downstream ends of MGS Long-Span Guardrail System.


In the minimum length study, computer simulation and full-scale testing indicated that a 75’ long MGS system would be capable of redirecting a 2270P vehicle under the MASH TL-3 impact conditions. Test no. MGSMIN-1, was performed on the 75-ft long MGS with a top rail mounting height of 31 in. A 4,956-lb pickup truck impacted the barrier system at a speed of 63.1 mph and at an angle of 24.9 degrees. The test results met all of the MASH safety requirements for test designation no. 3-11. The tested system had a total of 13 posts.


A performance comparison was conducted between 75-ft MGS (test no. MGSMIN-1) and 175-ft MGS. The dynamic deflection for the 175-ft (53.3-m) MGS was slightly higher than observed for the shortened system, but this difference could be due to variations in soil compaction between tests. The working width was nearly indistinguishable. In general, the 75-ft MGS in test no. MGSMIN-1 performed as desired and closely resembled the standard 175-ft MGS.


A second study regarding downstream anchoring of the MGS found that the MGS would successfully redirect 2270P vehicles impacting at 6 posts or more upstream of the end of the system for a MASH TL-3 impact on a 175-ft long MGS system. 


Based on previous testing and the results of test no. MGSMIN-1, MASH TL-3 vehicles impacting between post nos. 3 and 8 of the 75-ft long system should be redirected. Vehicles impacting downstream of post no. 8 may be redirected, but the system would also be expected to gate based on the downstream anchor research.


Based on the MASH 2270P test into the MGS Minimum Length System, we believe that the MGS Long-Span Guardrail System would likely have performed in an acceptable manner with 62.5 ft of rail on the upstream and downstream ends, thus resulting in an overall system length of 150 ft. A 62.5-ft long tangent length adjacent to the unsupported length would still provide adequate space to incorporate a 37.5 ft or 50 ft long energy-absorbing guardrail end terminal.


For unsupported lengths of 18.75 ft and 12.5 ft, it would seem reasonable to consider a reduction in the required guardrail length both upstream and downstream from the unsupported length using the test information and arguments noted above. For two missing posts or an unsupported length of 18.75 ft, we believe that the upstream and downstream guardrail lengths likely could be 56.25 ft each with a minimum overall system length of 131.25 ft. For one missing post or an unsupported length of 12.5 ft, we believe that the upstream and downstream guardrail lengths likely could be 50 ft each with a minimum overall system length of 112.5 ft. However, we believe that the three CRT posts still would be required on the upstream and downstream ends of the 18.75 ft and 12.5 ft long unsupported lengths. In addition, one would need to discuss with and likely obtain approval from the manufacturers as to whether they would allow three CRTs to be used within the last 12.5 ft of a 50-ft long guardrail terminal.


If one were to follow the logic used above and consider the situation of no missing posts (i.e., 6.25 ft post spacing throughout), the upstream and downstream ends would be reduced by 6.25 ft each and include the interior 6.25 ft long span in the middle of the system. As a result, the overall system length would be 43.25 ft + 6.25 ft + 43.25 ft for a total of 92.75 ft. As noted above, MwRSF recently crash tested a 75-ft long version of the MGS with satisfactory results, effectively configured with two 37.5-ft long guardrail segments with tensile anchorage devices and placed end-to-end. This corresponds to the situation in the schematic you sent and would provide conservative guidance on minimum length for the guardrail system over the culvert. Thus, this would correspond to 43.25 feet of barrier on the upstream and downstream end of the system. However, some terminals may require a 50 ft length for installation.


Of course, it should be noted that these design modifications are based on engineering judgment combined with the unpublished results from the MGS Minimum Length System crash testing program. In addition, the opinions noted above are based on the assumption that the currently-available proprietary guardrail end terminals would provide comparable tensile anchorage for the MGS as provided by the common tensile anchorage system using in the MwRSF crash testing program (i.e., two steel foundation tubes, one channel strut, one cable anchor with bearing plate, and BCT posts at positions 1 and 2 on each end). Although we are confident that the modifications noted above would provide acceptable performance, the only sure means to fully determine the safety performance of a barrier system is through the use of full-scale vehicle crash testing.


3.       Sufficient length for compression based terminal operation must be considered as well.


To the best of our knowledge, the shortest installation lengths for compression based terminal testing was conducted on 131.25-ft long system. We believe that this length could be shortened some based on our current knowledge of guardrail compression forces. We have used a reduction in longitudinal rail force of approximately 1-1.2 kips at each post in a guardrail due to the connection between the post and the rail. Current terminal designs tend to have impact head compressive forces that average about 15 kips. This would mean that a minimum of 12-13 posts would be needed to develop the compression load. Of course the end terminal takes out some posts during its compression. However, most of the velocity drop occurs in the first 25-31.25 feet of the compression. Thus, we can assume that if we allow for 31.25 ft of compression and 13 posts to develop the compressive load, an estimated minimum system length for the development of the end terminal compressive loads would be 112.5 ft (13*6.25+31.25).


Because we did not have additional funds or terminal testing and evaluation in the above research, we would recommend minimum system lengths of 112.5 ft in order to be conservative.


One last factor to consider with the use of terminals on these short systems is the deflection of the terminal when impacted on the end relative to the hazard. As noted above, we believe that the system will redirect the vehicle beginning at post no. 3 in the system. However, in an end on impact of the terminal, the vehicle may deflect down the rail between 37.5 ft – 50 ft. Thus, hazards near the back of the guardrail may still be impacted by end terminal impacts even when they are in the redirective area of the guardrail system. As such, you have to consider both the deflection of the terminal, the redirective region of the LON, and the runout length considerations when designing the placement of short guardrail system.


Thus, based on the analysis and review of previous research, it seems that the minimum length of the installation may be limited to 112.5 ft based the function of the compression terminals. In answer to your question with respect to guardrail over culvert, we would recommend that the overall system length be at least 112.5 ft, and that a minimum of 43.25 ft be required on the upstream and downstream ends of the system. Again, consideration of Lateral Extent of the Area of Concern, the Guardrail Runout Length, and length-of-need (LON)may trump this guidance.



Date August 26, 2015

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