Journal article

Road runoff management using over-the-shoulder infiltration: real-scale experimentation

A new management policy regarding road runoff was proposed in 2002 by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). This new concept is based on the diffuse infiltration of road runoff into embankment slopes, where soils will filter particles and contaminants. The shoulder lying between road surface and infiltration slopes must be impervious in order to maximise the amount of water reaching the slope and avoid losses in the road structure. The implementation of this new concept should lower the impact of roads on the environment, improve aquifer recharge and reduce construction costs. The Swiss Federal Road Office (FedRO) decided to carry out real-scale investigations regarding this new policy and thus commissioned the GEOLEP to design, build, and test 5 different shoulder structures. This paper presents the results of a 2-years survey of infiltration processes in these shoulders to establish the best performing structure. The first three shoulders were overlaid with 5 cm of gravel mixed with humus, gravel mixed with clay, and seeded with lawn, respectively. The latter two had impervious layers located 26 cm deep: the road bituminous basement (road base) was prolonged and coated with bitumen in the first case, and a sodic-bentonite geotextile was used in the second. Both were covered with gravel. All shoulders were equipped with basal collecting devices that measured hydraulic fluxes seeping through the shoulders. In total, 112 natural precipitations and 3 artificial events were monitored. Artificial events mimicked known transitory regimes (thunderstorms) or were performed with constant regime. The goal was to effectively assess infiltration processes in shoulders. Results showed that shoulders made of gravel and humus or lawn were highly ineffective ( only 30 to 40% of runoff is conducted to the infiltration slope). Gravel and clay was more efficient with a proportion of approximately 60%. The shoulder with prolonged road base showed similar results since the bituminous coating was in fact rather permeable. The best results were exhibited by the shoulder waterproofed with bentonitic geotextile, which allowed no water to penetrate. This material already proved to be very powerful in groundwater catchments. The authors thus proposed a combination of sodic-bentonite geotextile covered by a gravel and clay mixture. This would be the most efficient shoulder: it will convey all the runoff to infiltration slopes, thereby optimising its filtration, which in turn will enhance environmental conditions in the vicinity of roads.


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