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Paving with roller compacted concrete

Externally vibrated dry concrete mix provides durable support for heavy wheel loads


STATE OF THE ART: Paving with roller compacted concrete Externally vibrated dry concrete mix provides durable

R oller compacted concrete (RCC) has had a lot

of attention in the past seve ral years because

of its growing acceptance for use as mass con-

c rete in

dam construction. Howe ve r, a re c e n t

d e velopment is the increasing use of RCC as a com-

p a ra t i vely low cost,

durable paving material to carry

heavy loads. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ac- cepted it for airc raft parking apro n s, taxiways and oth- er pavements at military installations, and thus stim- ulated interest among all those concerned with p a vement constru c t i o n . Roller compacted concrete as used for pavements is a d ry portland cement concrete material which is consol- idated by external vibration using heavy vibra t o ry ro l l e r s or similar equipment. It is normally dryer than a no- slump consistency and must be stiff enough to support the compaction equipment. RCC for pavement con- s t ruction is generally placed with an asphalt paver or similar equipment, modified to accommodate the stiff consistency of RCC and the thicker lifts used. The most obvious advantage of using RCC pave m e n t is lower cost, achieved pri m a rily by the use of lower cost equipment and fewer workers than with conve n t i o n a l c o n c rete pave m e n t s. In some cases, lower cost aggre- gates can also contribute to the saving. The term RCC p a vement is normally considered to refer to installations w h e re the RCC is the we a ring course, without any other applied surf a c i n g .


Co n s t ruction technology similar to that of the RCC p a vement has been available for many years in pave- ment base construction. There is even a re c o rd of tru e

STATE OF THE ART: Paving with roller compacted concrete Externally vibrated dry concrete mix provides durable

Fort Lewis RCC test road surface. Close-up of the 3 4⁄ -inch aggregate pavement at about 1 year, showing a nonraveled transverse crack. These cracks formed at 40- to 80-foot spacing throughout the road project.

roller compacted concrete used for pavements at the Yakima, Washington airport in 1941. Although the equipment was pri m i t i ve by today’s standard s, and the mix design and control we re likely less than perfect, that p a vement has served well. It is still in use, with only a thin asphalt overlay added during 45 years of serv i c e.

How RCC pavement compares with treated bases and RCC for dams

Use of RCC for pavements evo l ved from the use of soil cement and cement treated base (CTB) courses. Al- though equipment for batching or feeding and mixing has developed from that used for the base courses, RCC for pavements re q u i res better controls on pro p o rt i o n- ing. Also, a true paver or layd own machine is norm a l l y

Ends of a broken test beam from the Fort Hood, Texas tank stand (1984) show internal

Ends of a broken test beam from the Fort Hood, Texas tank stand (1984) show internal structure of the RCC pavement.

used for placing and finishing the RCC pavement while less sophisticated placing and spreading equipment is

often used for CTB or soil cement. The RCC pave m e n t mix has considerably more cementitious material than C T B, and differs from most soil cement in that it con- tains coarse aggre g a t e. The most important difference between RCC pave- ment and CTB or soil cement is that the RCC is designed to be a true portland cement concrete pavement with

s t ru c t u ral strength

at least comparable to that of con-

ventional portland cement concre t e, and often higher. The RCC pavement is also designed to have resistance to the abrasion of traffic, durability when exposed to seve re we a t h e r, and a surface finish and straightedge tolera n c e s a t i s f a c t o ry for the usual re q u i rements of the traffic in- vo l ve d . RCC for pavements differs significantly from RCC for d a m s, which is simply a form of low - c e m e n t - c o n t e n t mass concre t e. The RCC pavement mixes have a much higher cement and paste content and much smaller coarse aggre g a t e. Typical cementitious material con- tents (cement plus poz zolan) range from 500 to 550 pounds per cubic yard, and the maximum size of coarse aggregate is usually near 3 4 inch. These factors along with a different approach to mix design pro d u c e a much more workable mix than that used for dams, al- though it is still a no-slump mix, stiff enough to support v i b ra t o ry ro l l e r s.


Although the United States was making slow pro g re s s in the seventies with RCC dams, only one small RCC test p a vement section (12x105 feet) was installed at the U.S. A rmy Wa t e rways Ex p e riment Station in Vi c k s b u rg, Mi s- sissippi in 1975. Howe ve r, engineers and contractors in British Columbia, Canada we re having excellent re s u l t s using RCC pavement as a base with a thin we a ring sur- face of asphaltic concrete for building heavy-duty pave- ments for dockside storage are a s. The material prove d p a rticularly appro p riate for containerization yards and

piggyback trailer park s, and it was decided to try RCC as a combined base and surfacing or total pavement. The attitude was: “The RCC is perf o rming so well. Why do we need the asphalt surf a c i n g ? ” This line of thinking led to construction in 1976 of a full RCC pavement for a log sort yard at Ca ycuse in the c e n t ral part of Va n c o u ver Island, British Columbia. The f o rest products industry was then facing stiff enviro n- mental regulations which made it impractical to contin- ue the common practice of sorting and yarding logs in the waters throughout the timberland. But dry- s o rt y a rds in that climate would immediately become huge mud holes unless surfaced. Since asphalt was impra c t i- cal at many isolated sites, the decision was made to try RCC .

RCC paving procedures at Caycuse, British Columbia

The log sort yard at Ca yc u s e, built in the fall of 1976, included 4 acres of 14-inch-thick RCC pavement placed in a two-lift operation on a 6-inch crushed rock base. Fi ve more acres we re added in 1979. A local pit-ru n s a n d - g ra vel with maximum size about 3 4 inch was used. The 8-inch bottom lift had an 8-percent cement content, and the 6-inch top lift was made with 12 percent cement (about 5.1 sacks per cubic yard ) . Co n s t ruction equipment and pro c e d u res at Ca yc u s e were similar to those used on later jobs. An easily trans- p o rtable continuous type mixing plant, one which could be erected in about 2 days, was set up near the construction site. The mixing was done in a twin-screw pug mill. Aggregate was fed to the mixer with a belt con- ve yor having vo l u m e t ric (gate) controls on the feed to the belt. Cement was fed from a silo onto the ribbon of a g g regate on the belt by means of a vane feeder. Wa t e r was metered and fed to the mixer through a spray bar. A second belt conve yor picked up mixed RCC from the d i s c h a rge of the pug mill and elevated it to the tru c k loading point. A small gated transfer hopper located at the end of the conveyor reduced segregation at the con- ve yor discharge and allowed trucks to change without stopping the plant. Trucks hauled the concrete to the placing site and dumped into the hopper of a conventional self-pro- pelled asphalt pave r. The paver spread the RCC to a uni- f o rm lift meeting the desired line and grade with a “f i n- i s h e d” surface ready for compaction with heavy steel-wheel vibra t o ry ro l l e r s. Usually the vibra t o ry ro l l e r s we re followed by ru b b e r- t i red rollers and then a final pass of a non-vibra t o ry steel-wheel ro l l e r. A small amount of compaction was provided by vibra t i n g s c reeds on the pave r. The paver could be electro n i c a l l y c o n t rolled from a string line or ski operating on the ad- jacent paved lane. Mo re commonly manual contro l s we re used. An allowance of about 10 to 15 percent extra depth was made to cover compaction during ro l l i n g . Cu ring, commonly provided by sprinklers attached to a pipe irrigation system, usually continued for 14 days.

Since the conventional asphalt pavers available could handle only about 10 inches in an RCC lift, anything thicker had to be two-course construction. The speci- fied sequence of two-course construction re q u i re d placing the second course within an hour of the first, but with no treatment of the surface of the first lift. Each lane of pavement was placed immediately adjacent to the previous lane, with the longitudinal constru c t i o n joint formed by leaving a 12- to 18-inch unrolled strip at the edge of the preceding lane and rolling it after the succeeding lane had been placed in contact with it. If the operation was shut down overnight, the edge of the last lane was cut back to a ve rtical face with a motor g rader or similar equipment and then the new lane butted up against this face the next day. No tra n s ve r s e joints we re formed; the pavement was simply allowed to c rack as shrinkage occurred. The tra n s verse cracks did form, reasonably straight across the pavement, from 40 to 70 feet apart.

Performance record at Caycuse

When we inspected these pavements in De c e m b e r 1983, and again a year later, the Ca ycuse pave m e n t s we re in excellent condition in spite of seve re service con- d i t i o n s. The larger log stackers apply up to 240,000- pound loads on two-wheel axles, and off-road tru c k s b ringing in logs have a gross weight of 120 tons. In addi- tion, the pavement is subjected to intense abrasion as logs are pushed across the surf a c e. Almost no stru c t u ra l p roblems we re found, and the surface was in exc e l l e n t condition. There we re few open longitudinal constru c- tion joints. Many tra n s verse cracks we re tight; most we re 1 1 6 to 1 8 inch wide, with a few up to 3 8 inch. No attempt had been made to seal the cracks or otherwise work on them, but there was no sign of offsetting or ra veling, and the c racks we re causing no pro b l e m s. This pavement is in an area with numerous cycles of f re ezing and thawing, although winter tempera t u re s seldom go below +20 degrees F. There was no evidence w h a t e ver of any fre eze-thaw deteri o ration even though, like other RCC pavements, the Caycuse pavement con- c rete is not air entrained. Co res taken from the pave- ment had compressive strengths from 3000 to 5000 psi, with most of the results bunched in the 4000- to 4200- psi range. Since 1976 other similar RCC pavements have been built in we s t e rn British Columbia for log sort yards and dock are a s, using essentially similar construction pro- c e d u res and with similar good results and serv i c e re c o rd s. Some projects have used only portland cement, but more commonly a mixture of 25 percent fly ash and 75 percent portland cement has been used.

RCC installed in severe climate area

The first major RCC pavement built in a really seve re climate was an 11-mile haul road from the Bull Mo o s e Coal Mine to a railhead at Tumbler Ridge, the newe s t t own in Canada. This is about 75 miles southwest of

Dawson Creek, beginning point of the Alcan Highway in n o rtheast British Columbia. Along with the road there was also a 6-acre load-out at the railhead, built in the late fall of 1983 over extremely poor subgra d e. The load-out a rea has 7 inches of RCC with no other surfacing. The ro a d — 6 1 2 inches of RCC plus 1 1 2 inches asphalt surf a c- ing—was designed with no base course, but in many ar- eas of poorest subgrade the contractor put down a gra n- ular base as a working platform . The RCC mix had 12 percent cementitious materi a l by weight, half portland cement and half natural poz- zolan from a local sourc e. It was designed for a flexura l s t rength of 450 psi at 56 days. Two pavers operated in echelon, one about 150 feet behind the other in the ad- joining lane. Cu ring was by water truck for the first few h o u r s, followed by an application of asphalt emulsion. Much of the RCC froze hard the night after it was placed. We inspected this work in the summer of 1985 be- cause of great interest in the durability of RCC pave m e n t in extremely seve re climate. The asphalt surfacing on the road has deteri o rated considera b l y, but the RCC has per- f o rmed ve ry well, with the only distress spots show i n g w h e re subgrade support was extremely poor. In the load-out area where the RCC is exposed without other s u rfacing, it seemed to be in perfect condition, show i n g no sign of fre eze-thaw deteri o ration. The road is used by 7-axle coal trucks with a gross weight of 80 tons, op- e rating 24 hours per day year ro u n d .


Me a n w h i l e, use of RCC pavement began in the Un i t e d St a t e s, at first only by the U.S. Army Corps of En g i n e e r s. In 1983 a small area of RCC pavement was placed on a tank road at Fo rt St e w a rt, Ge o rgia by the Wa t e rways Ex- p e riment Station, using troop labor from the post. Al- though the road was placed in an area of poor subgra d e using rather pri m i t i ve paving methods, the users have been most pleased with the finished pro d u c t .

Tank area built at Fort Hood

The first significant RCC pavement in the Un i t e d States was constructed at Fo rt Hood, Texas by the Fo rt Wo rth Di s t rict of the Corps of En g i n e e r s, aided by the Wa t e rways Ex p e riment Station, in August 1984. This was a large parking area for tanks and other tracked ve h i c l e s s u r rounding a maintenance shop. An 18,000-square - y a rd area of 10-inch pavement was placed in one lift, at a cost of about $58 per cubic yard in place. The RCC mix contained 300 pounds of portland ce- ment and 160 pounds of fly ash per cubic yard. Most of the RCC contained 1 1 2-inch maximum size aggre g a t e, g raded to ASTM C 33 specification, with separate fine a g g re g a t e. This aggregate size did pose some pro b l e m s. T h e re was a tendency tow a rd segregation during han- dling, and the surface finish was not as good as had been obtained with smaller aggre g a t e s. A small area was made with 3/4-inch maximum aggre g a t e, and this mix han- dled much better.

Vibratory roller was the only compaction equipment needed following the paver at Portland Airport. Specifications required

Vibratory roller was the only compaction equipment needed following the paver at Portland Airport. Specifications required rolling to begin within 10 minutes of placement and to be completed within 60 minutes from start of mixing at the plant.

Weather was also a problem at Fo rt Hood. A temper- a t u re of 100 degrees F with the wind blowing made it difficult to pre vent exc e s s i ve drying of the surf a c e. Ori g- inally it was planned to saw joints similar to those in conventional concrete pavements; this proved imprac- tical and the pavement was left unjointed. In spite of d i f f i c u l t i e s, beams sawed from the pavement tested at 800 to 900 psi, well above the specified flexural strength of 650 psi.

Test road built at Fort Lewis

In t e rest in RCC pavement is really booming in the Pa-

cific No rt h west, in part because

of information coming

in from British Columbia. The Seattle Di s t rict of the Corps of Engineers built the first RCC pavement in this a rea in October 1984. Du ring construction of this test road at Fo rt Lewis, Washington, many visitors from sur- rounding areas came to observe, and afterw a rd a live l y i n t e rest in RCC pavements developed in the commerc i a l f i e l d .

The Fo rt Lewis test road was 23 feet wide, 700 feet long, and 8 1 2 inches thick. It was constructed in a port i o n of a well-used gra vel road from which 8 1 2 inches of sur- facing and base had been re m oved so the finish grade of the RCC would match the former surface gra d e. Se ve ra l va riables we re tried during this construction so that their effectiveness could be compared. The road was built in two lanes and on two different days so that there would be cold construction joints, both longitudinal and

t ra n s ve r s e.

Two different mixes we re used (see table).

Mix A, used for about two-thirds of the test road, includ- ed portland cement, fly ash and natural gra vel. Mix B, used for the other third of the work, had only port l a n d cement and a crushed 5 8-inch maximum size aggre-



Mix A

Mix B

Portland cement

350 pounds

520 pounds

Fly ash

180 pounds

(Class F)

Coarse aggregate

1935 pounds, 3 4-inch gravel

3500 pounds, 5 8-inch, crushed


1560 pounds


168 pounds

203 pounds

(20.3 gallons)

(24.5 gallons)

28-day flexural

600 psi

800 psi


90-day flexural

690 psi

960 psi


gate—an asphaltic concrete aggregate used by the Wa s h- ington De p a rtment of Tra n s p o rtation, with 7 to 10 per- cent passing the No. 200 sieve. The pro p o rtioning (feeding) and mixing equipment we re essentially the same as that used in British Co- lumbia (described on page 291), but two aggre g a t e feeds we re needed for Mix A because it had both coarse and fine aggre g a t e. Tra n s p o rting, paving and ro l l i n g p ractices we re also like those used in British Co l u m- bia. The number of passes with the ru b b e r- t i red ro l l e r was va ried to study the effect. The general opinion was that two passes helped tighten up the surf a c e, but more passes tended to degrade it. The 3 4-inch gra vel mix (Mi x A) placed and finished well, although the 5 8- i n c h c rushed asphalt aggregate mix was even easier to han- dle and finish. Both mixes consistently produced RCC surfaces to an a ve rage 3 1 6-inch tolerance when measured tra n s ve r s e l y with a 10-foot stra i g h t e d g e. Tra n s verse cracks deve l o p e d at 50- to 80-foot spacings. Early strength tests on beams s a wed from the pavement showed Mix B (no fly ash) 30 to 40 percent stronger than Mix A (see table).

New paver at Port of Tacoma freight yard

Early in the spring of 1985, the Port of Tacoma, Wash- ington began building the first of three freight handling areas along trackage at the docks, each having 35,000 to 50,000 square yards of 12- to 17-inch RCC pave m e n t . These paved areas are designed for storage of larg e f reight containers, parking of piggyback tra i l e r s, and for the operation of “piggy-packer” straddle cranes with axle loads of 205,000 pounds, which handle the fre i g h t containers. The RCC mix was designed with 450 pounds of port-

land cement, 100 pounds of fly ash and the same 5 8- i n c h c rushed aggregate used in the Fo rt Lewis test section. On the first area, the low bidder’s price was $1,764,000 for RCC, compared with $2,275,000 for a conventional port- land cement concrete option. The first two RCC projects at the Tacoma docks we re built with equipment similar to that previously de- s c ribed, but on the third project a Ge rman paver new to this country was used. The machine is similar to Ameri- can asphalt pave r s, but heavier duty, capable of laying an RCC lift of 12-inch compacted thickness. It was equipped with two tamping screeds which can compact the material to 94 to 95 percent of modified Proctor den- sity as it comes out of the pave r. Thus the single ro l l e r f o l l owing did little additional compaction, causing al- most no settlement of the pavement surface—a gre a t a d vantage in maintaining finish tolera n c e s.

RCC at Portland International Airport

Early in 1985, the Po rt of Po rtland, Oregon invited bids for construction of 41,000 square yards of airc raft park- ing apron for 747 jumbo jets at Po rtland In t e rn a t i o n a l A i r p o rt. Because of long term loading conditions, both p o rtland cement concrete and RCC we re considered as a l t e rn a t i ves to asphalt concre t e. The plans and specifi- cations we re pre p a red for RCC and asphalt concrete al- t e rn a t i ve s. When the bids came in, port officials selected the cheaper RCC altern a t i ve, which was almost 25 per- cent below the lowest asphalt bid. Total cost of the RCC was $40.73 per cubic yard in place. The 14-inch pavement was placed in two lifts on 4 to 6 inches of granular base. The mix consisted of

• 488 pounds portland cement • 119 pounds fly ash • 260 pounds water • 3256 pounds 3 4-inch-maximum aggre g a t e

per cubic yard. The aggregate was a modified Ore g o n State Highway gradation, crushed material with 5 to 10 p e rcent passing the No. 200 sieve. The water-(cement + p oz zolan) ratio was 0.43. The two equal lifts we re placed with a paver similar to the one used at Tacoma. The rectangular apron was p a ved longitudinally in widths va rying from 18 to 24 feet. Each longitudinal lane was divided into three sections so that the paver could get back to the beginning of the lane being paved to start placing the top lift before the bot- tom lift was over 60 minutes old, as re q u i red by the spec- i f i c a t i o n s. The single paver with vibrating screed was fol- l owed by a single vibra t o ry ro l l e r. The specifications called for burlap curing mats and fog spray 24 hours per day for 7 days. Cu ring compounds we re not permitted as an altern a t e.


A 1985 survey by the Po rtland Cement Association s h owed more than 283,000 square yards of completed roller compacted concrete pavement in the Un i t e d St a t e s. The Seattle Di s t rict of the Corps of Engineers now has under contract at Fo rt Lewis the construction of a p a rking area for tracked vehicles around a maintenance s h o p. This job invo l ves 16,000 square yards of 8 1 2- inch RCC pavement with a mix similar to the 5 8-inch cru s h e d a g g regate mix used at Fo rt Lewis (Mix B. in table). At least 12 additional projects are under active considera- tion in the U. S.

Durability of RCC pavements

One quality that was of concern when RCC was first c o n s i d e red for pavement use was its durability when ex- posed to fre eze-thaw conditions. This concern led to in- vestigation of the RCC pavements in British Co l u m b i a — at Ca ycuse with years of fre eze-thaw cycle exposure, and at Tumbler Ridge where extreme cold conditions are common. Nothing thus far has shown the RCC to have any problems with fre eze-thaw durability in serv i c e. The Corps of Engineers Wa t e rways Ex p e riment St a- tion and Cold Regions Re s e a rch and En g i n e e ring Labo- ra t o ry have been doing labora t o ry studies to determ i n e what qualities the RCC material has that would protect it f rom fre eze-thaw damage. No one has re p o rted being able to get air- e n t raining agents to work with RCC ma- t e ri a l s, but there is speculation that entrapped air vo i d s in the in-place RCC may lend some measure of dura b i l- ity to it.

Good strengths; expanded use predicted

St ru c t u ral design for RCC pavements has thus far been similar to that used for conventional pavement, based on the strength attained in the RCC. We do not expect that this will change. The RCC pavements tend genera l- ly to have higher flexural strengths than conve n t i o n a l c o n c rete pave m e n t s. The test project at Fo rt Lewis s h owed that the RCC had about 100 psi higher flexura l s t rength than conventional concrete with the same ce- ment content at 14, 28 and 90 days. This may be due to both the lower water-cement ratio and the high degre e of consolidation for RCC . O ri g i n a l l y, RCC was considered only for such uses as s l ow speed pave m e n t s, parking lots and roads for t racked ve h i c l e s. Howe ve r, recent uses have begun to indicate that it may be suitable for higher quality, higher speed pave m e n t s.

land cement, 100 pounds of fly ash and the same ⁄ 8 - i n c

P U B L I C AT I O N # C 8 6 0 2 8 7

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