The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is required to comply
with the National Pollution Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permit, which includes the infiltration of stormwater runoff from highways and implementing soil based best managements practices (BMPs). Stormwater BMPs are in place to prevent pollution in stormwater runoff as well as to facilitate the stormwater discharge from the road. Per this new permit, Caltrans is to install soil based BMPs that can absorb the 85th percentile of a 24-hour stormwater event. In order to absorb the stormwater runoff, the area used is the Clear Recovery Zone (CRZ), which are the road embankments/slopes located adjacent to the roadside. The CRZ must be traversable and recoverable in order to meet roadside traffic safety standards. A major concern for Caltrans is the uncertainty on how these BMPs will affect the safety of a vehicle, if a vehicle were to interact with the soft soils.
In order to provide an insight on the effects of the BMPs, the modeling and simulation of vehicle dynamics under certain interactions between the roadside, soil, and vehicle was completed. The research used computer simulations to quantify the probability of rollover accidents under several different vehicle, driving and ground conditions. The vehicles traversing typical archetype roadsides on soft soil are simulated using MsMac3D software. It was important to model the properties of the vehicle, roadside, mechanical and hydraulic properties of soils realistically in order to obtain an accurate representation of a real-world vehicle and soil interaction.
The outcome was a library of simulations that provided quantifiable data on the effect that soft soils have on the safety and rollover potential of a vehicle traversing the CRZ.