Pilot Construction Project for Granular Shoulder Stabilization

Project Investigators

Charles Jahren, David White


Fangyu Guo

Project Schedule

Jun 2011 to Sep 2013


Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Highway Research Board


aggregate stabilization, edge-rut mitigation, gravel shoulders, shoulder maintenance, soybean soapstock, stabilization equipment, stabilizing agents

Project Description

Granular shoulders need to be maintained on a regular basis because edge ruts and potholes develop, posing a safety hazard to motorists. The successful mitigation of edge-rut issues for granular shoulders would increase safety and reduce the number of procedures currently required to maintain granular shoulders in Iowa. In addition, better performance of granular shoulders reduces the urgency to pave granular shoulders. Delaying or permanently avoiding paving shoulders where possible allows more flexibility in making investments in the road network.

To stabilize shoulders and reduce the number of maintenance cycles necessary per season, one possible stabilizing agent—acidulated soybean oil soapstock—was investigated in this research. A pilot testing project was conducted for selected problematic shoulders in northern and northeastern Iowa. Soapstock was applied on granular shoulders and monitored during application and pre- and post-application. Application techniques were documented and the percentage of application success was calculated for each treated shoulder section.

As a result of this research, it was concluded that soybean oil soapstock can be an effective stabilizer for granular shoulders under certain conditions. The researchers also developed draft specifications that could possibly be used to engage a contractor to perform the work using a maintenance-type construction contract. The documented application techniques from this project could be used as guidance for those who want to apply soapstock for stabilizing granular shoulders but might not be familiar with this technique.

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Research Products

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