Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date


Performing Organization

Marquette University, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Contract or Grant Number

WisDOT SPR # 0092-45-95


This report has presents the findings of implementations of pilot specifications for subgrade acceptance based on measured deflections. The reconfigured rolling wheel deflectomter (RWD), portable truck-mounted deflection measurement systems, and dynamic cone penetrometer (DCP) were utilized on four subgrade construction projects during the 2001 construction season. Comparative nuclear density readings were obtained at selected locations within each project. Comparative soil stiffness gauge readings were also obtained on 2 of the pilot projects

The research findings from this and previous study phases indicate that deflection test results may be appropriate for identifying areas of poor in-place stability within constructed subgrades. However, deflection testing alone may not provide all of the data necessary to properly differentiate acceptable and non-acceptable subgrade stabilities. It is important to note that deflection test results are related to the moisture-density conditions at the time of testing. Soils that show acceptable results (i.e., low deflections) may subsequently weaken due to changes in moisture content, freezing/thawing, etc. In instances where subgrade acceptance is well in advance of base course application, subgrade moisture changes may result in decreased soil support. For those conditions where soil compaction has been conducted at a moisture state near optimum, surface deflections should be correlated to the achieved level of compaction.

The overall objectives of this research have been met, particularly in the development of useful correlations between subgrade deflections and in-place subgrade stability as measured by the California Bearing Ratio (CBR). Deflection data collected to date using instrumentation on the axles of loaded quad-axle trucks indicates this data source should be adequate for acceptance testing. It is recommended that implementations of deflection acceptance testing be conducted during the 2002 construction season on selected projects using a deflection threshold of 1.50 inches to identify areas which would not provide sufficient stability for subsequent construction operations. For use within Year 2002 implementations, this threshold value is recommended for use to identify potentially “failed” test locations. The project engineer should retain the right to require corrective actions to improve subgrade conditions based on the magnitude and extent of failed readings.


Published version. Comprehensive Subgrade Deflection Acceptance Criteria - Pilot Implementation Report (WI/SPR 04-02). Milwaukee, WI, Marquette University, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (2002). © 2002 Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Used with permission.