Investigation of The Efficacy Of Helical Pile Foundation Implementation In Accelerated Bridge Construction Projects – Phase I

Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) has been used in an increasing rate by transportation agencies over the past decade as the need to reduce impact to the traveling public and increase the safety of laborers has become of greater importance. Many advances have been made in the construction methodology especially with respect to bridge decks, superstructures, and, to a lesser extent, substructures. Of the many advances that have been made, few have specifically been directed at the accelerated construction of foundations of bridge structures. For this reason, there are still opportunities to decrease project duration and reduce disruption to the road users with the adoption of newer foundation technologies.

Research is needed to identify the efficacy of using helical pile foundations for ABC projects. Helical pile installers tout the simplicity and speed of installation along with the ability to work within areas of limited size with smaller equipment.

The number of current standard foundation options for bridge substructures is limited thus reducing the potential time savings afforded through newer, less-common technologies. Though acceleration of bridge projects has greatly progressed, the potential for additional time savings still exists through the use of other methods such as helical piles. In addition to their fast installation, the use of helical piles offers immediate capacity determination upon installation through capacity to torque ratios, and the use of small maneuverable equipment for installation.

Helical pile foundations have become commonplace in new commercial building construction and foundation repair applications with many foundation installers now offering this technology as one of their services. However, few bridge projects have been completed using helical piles despite their high capacities and speed of installation. The required equipment for installation (skid steer, back hoe, or excavator) lends itself to quick deployment and being an economical solution (i.e., excavator vs. crane), an advantage for any bridge project, but particularly for low-volume roads where budgetary considerations tend to be of specific priority.

The main objective of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of the use of helical pile foundations in accelerated bridge construction projects.

This project focuses on helical pile use to accelerate foundation construction on bridge projects. The following tasks will be performed to achieve the project objective:

  • Task 1 – Literature Review
    o The research team will compile all related information available in journals, conference proceedings, technical reports, and online resources in a concise and comprehensive summary. The main objective of this task is to obtain an exhaustive understanding of helical pile use and its potential application to ABC projects.
  • Task 2 – Information Collection
    o Task 2 will involve reaching out to helical pile foundation system designers, installers, and contractors with surveys and follow-up interviews. The goal will be to gather information primarily on capacity (vertical and lateral), speed of installation, and cost associated with lateral pile installation.
  • Task 3 – Summary of Information
    o The efforts associated with Tasks 1 and 2 will be summarized to define helical pile technology and highlight the overall project discoveries and how ABC projects could be affected by implementing additional foundation strategies. It is anticipated this effort will generally give direction to the efficacy of helical pile foundation use on ABC projects.
  • Task 4– Final Report
    o The project findings from the previously identified tasks will be prepared by means of a final report. This document will include the identified current state-of-the-practice of helical piles, the potential adoption to ABC projects, recommendations for further study/research, and other key project discoveries.

Research Team:
Principal Investigator: Justin Dahlberg
Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Jeramy Ashlock, Dr. Katelyn Freeseman