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Earthwork, Cross Sections, Mass Haul Diagram


It is generally necessary to consider the quantities of material to be excavated or generally used in the
highway excavation process. This information can be useful in the development of a preliminary cost estimate
for the work to be undertaken. It can also be used as part of the design process in the selection of the final
cross-section and alignment characteristics of the roadway. Quantity estimates are often part of the
information given to the contractors bidding to complete the work.

In past years quantity estimation was a slow and tedious task which involved extensive and repetitive
calculation. In more recent years, computer software has been developed whereby these calculations can be
done automatically. This has improved the ability of the designers to consider various design alternatives.

Computers have enabled the design process to improve. This is shown in Figure 1. The designer will
generally use the information in a feedback process of improving the design. The contractor will gain an
appreciation for the scale of the work to be undertaken, the equipment required, and so on.

Material Quantity Estimates

Road Designer ________________ Contractor

Cross-Section and Templates

The first step in determining the amount of earthwork that is required on highway project is to establish the
physical characteristics of the facility. This is done by setting the outline or "cross-section template" for the
highway. The template will determine the road width, the depth of the ditches, the slopes, the back slopes,
guide rail locations, shoulder widths, etc. The template will show the different treatments for excavation (cut)
areas and embankment (fill) areas. Both cut and fill sections are illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. - Original Grade Line & Template Section

Fill Section Cut Section Cut/Fill or Transition Section

A template section is overlaid on cross-sections of the existing grade along the proposed alignment. Typical
cross-sections are shown in Figure 3. The elevation of the road surface in the template is set by the
predetermined alignment profile of the highway, These cross sections allow the engineer to determine the area
of cut and fill in the cross-section. The volume of cut and fill can then be calculated between successive

Determining Quantities

The next step in estimating earthwork requirements is to calculate the amount of cut and fill. Quantities can be
measured in terms of their weights, although, they are usually measured in terms of their volume. The process
by which this is accomplished, whether done manually or by computer, is quite standard.

The process is illustrated in Figure 4, wherein a short section of road is drawn schematically. Here a fill
section as a short section of highway is shown. design cross-section (template) of the road is constant. The
cross-section the fill at three points is shown - 1, 2, and 3 . The areas of the fill cross- sections are also
shown - A1, A2, and A3 . These areas would be measured in square feet or square yards in FPS units or in
square metres in SI units. The distance between the fill sections is distance "1". The volume of material in this
fill can be calculated using the 'Average-End-Area' method as represented by the formula:

V = l x (A1 + A2)/2

where: V is the volume of material between stations 1 and 2 with fill areas A1 and A2. This is a simple,
traditional, and accepted method.

Figure 4. - Road Section Areas

Material Swell and Shrinkage

Materials used in embankments or fills that have been excavated will swell or shrink. It is important to
determine how this swelling or shrinking will affect the earthwork volumes. The effect of these actions must be
reflected in earthwork calculations.

SHRINKAGE - When earth is excavated and hauled for use as fill, the freshly excavated material generally
increases in volume due to the presence of air voids in the uncompacted material. However, when this
material is compacted into place in a fill, its volume its volume is normally less than its original condition before
it was excavated). This difference is defined as 'shrinkage'. The amount of shrinkage will depend on the type
of material used.

The amount of shrinkage will also depend on the depth of the fill. A shrinkage of 10 to 15 percent is typically
found for shallow fills. Shrinkage of 40 to 50 percent for some types of material is possible. These high
shrinkage values generally are used to allow for loss of material in the hauling process and loss of material at
the toe of a slope. In peat or muck areas, shrinkage should not include settlement of fills due to consolidation.

SWELL - when rock is excavated and placed in an embankment, the material will occupy a large volume
due to the air voids that are introduced into the material. This increase is called 'swell'. Swell can amount to
30 percent or more. Swell is only taken into account when a rock fill is being considered. Swell is not
considered for small amounts of loose rock or boulders placed in an embankment.

Mass Diagrams are a useful method to graphically represent the amount of material that will be cut and
used for fill on any earthwork job - particularly highway or railway projects. It shows the location of the mass
balance points, the direction of haul, and the amount of earth to be taken to or from any location along the
alignment. Mass diagrams are also extremely useful in determining the most economical distribution of
material. A simplified mass diagram is shown in Figure 5.

Definitions Related To Mass Diagrams

1. Excavation (E) - refers to any excavated material. There are two main categories for excavated
material - ordinary material (O.M.) and rock. Both O.M. and rock are generally paid for by cubic
metre in terms of excavation cost ($/m3). Rock is generally handled as a separate cost because it is
substantially more expensive to excavate.
2. Free haul (F) - when material is excavated it will be moved over a certain distance free of charge.
This distance is the 'free haul' and is normally specified by the contractor.
3. Overhaul (H) - is defined as and distance over which the excavated material must be hauled less the
free haul distance. The rate for overhaul is normally specified by the contractor. This rate is normally
given in $/m3/unit distance.
4. Borrow (B) - refers to the fill material that must be brought to the proposed highway site from outside
the highway cross section. Borrow does not include the material that is excavated on site for use as
fill , The borrow cost is normally given in $/m3, and this rate normally includes cost of excavating
borrow. There may be surcharge for borrow if excavated from someone' s property (B>=E).
5. Economic Overhaul Limit (LE0H) - a distance beyond which it is uneconomic to overhaul.

Therefore: E+(H+LOEH)=E+B

6. Limit of Economic Overhaul (LEH) - is the distance beyond which it is uneconomic to overhaul
plus the free haul distance.

i.e. LEH = F + LEOH

Note : There may be all kinds of reasons why this economic formula may not be used. (E.g.. if
you want to use all excavated material for fill for environmental reasons.

7. Waste - is the excavated material that can not be used for fill on the project site . Normally, an
engineer will try to roughly balance the amount of cut and fill required on a project when at the design
stage so that the amount of fill that must be hauled in or the amount of waste that must be hauled away
are not excessive. Waste can also include excavated materials that are unsuitable for use as a fill
because they have unacceptable engineering properties (such as peat, clays, etc.).

Sometimes it is more economical to waste material and use borrow material from a borrow pit within
the free haul distance . This occurs where it is necessary to haul excavated material long distances to
use as fill.

The cost of earthwork is the sum of the cost of the earthwork excavation the borrow, and the overhaul.

All of the above information can be represented on a quantity evaluation sheet as shown in Table 1.`

General List of Transportation Topics
Intro. to Transport, a Physical and Quantitative approach
TRANSPO Introduction start page
Tools page
Index of MYNET files

End to date, ams 990824