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International Journal of Pavement Engineering

ISSN: 1029-8436 (Print) 1477-268X (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/gpav20

Evaluation of anti-reflective cracking measures by

laboratory test
Bin Yu , Qing Lu & Jun Yang
To cite this article: Bin Yu , Qing Lu & Jun Yang (2013) Evaluation of anti-reflective cracking
measures by laboratory test, International Journal of Pavement Engineering, 14:6, 553-560,
DOI: 10.1080/10298436.2012.721547
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10298436.2012.721547

Published online: 06 Sep 2012.

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Date: 11 November 2016, At: 09:21

International Journal of Pavement Engineering, 2013

Vol. 14, No. 6, 553560, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10298436.2012.721547

Evaluation of anti-reflective cracking measures by laboratory test

Bin Yua*, Qing Lua and Jun Yangb

Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33613, USA; bSchool of
Transportation, Southeast University, SiPaiLou 2#, Nanjing 210096, P.R. China
(Received 24 October 2011; final version received 13 August 2012)
A laboratory simulation of load-induced reflective cracking was carried out using Hamburg wheel tracking tester (HWTT).
The simulation, compared with some previous fatigue tests, is more reasonable and applicable because, instead of static
load, the cyclic dynamic load is applied to the specimens and the test is relatively time and cost saving. The purpose of this
study was to evaluate the effectiveness of various stress-absorbing interlayers to retard the development of reflective
cracking, including styrene-butadiene-styrene (SBS)-modified asphalt sand concrete interlayer, asphalt-rubber sand
concrete interlayer, fibreglass-polyester paving mat interlayer and stress-absorbing membrane interlayer (SAMI).
Specimens without any anti-reflective cracking measure were also included to serve as a control. This paper first describes
material properties, aggregate gradations and the simulation apparatus. Then, it assesses the effectiveness of different
measures to prevent reflective cracking based on laboratory test results. It reveals that asphalt-rubber sand concrete
interlayer performed best and fibreglass-polyester paving mat interlayer ranked next, whereas both SBS-modified asphalt
sand concrete interlayer and SAMI showed similar and less sound performances compared with the former two under
laboratory test environments. However, SAMI may witness an improved field performance due to the limitation of
laboratory test set-up and any of the four measures could prolong the fatigue life of the specimens substantially. A finite
element model simulation was followed to explain the anti-reflective cracking mechanism and support the HWTT results.
Keywords: reflective cracking; Hamburg wheel tracking tester; stress-absorbing interlayer; finite element model

Semi-rigid base is widely used in the expressway of China
for its high strength to support the traffic load and reliable
ability to maintain the performance. However, the semirigid base material tends to crack prematurely due to
temperature and moisture change. The cracks in the base
will be reflected to the surface layer under the combined
effects of temperature fluctuation and vehicle passes.
Many research efforts have been devoted to reflective
cracking and a variety of anti-reflective cracking measures
have been suggested, ranging from material property
enhancement to pavement structure optimisation. Some
frequently adopted measures are (1) improving the
performance of surface layer material, (2) improving
the performance of base layer material, (3) increasing the
thickness of surface layer and (4) providing a stressabsorbing interlayer.
Evaluation of the effectiveness of various antireflective cracking alternatives is a significant task and
mainly realised by three methods: field project observation, finite element model (FEM) simulation and
laboratory simulation. Using the first method, Jones et al.
(2007) and Steven et al. (2007) carried out a series of
research efforts to investigate the overlay strategy for the
rehabilitation of cracked asphalt concrete in California
using heavy vehicle simulator (HVS). Their reports

*Corresponding author. Email: yubin@mail.usf.edu

q 2013 Taylor & Francis

suggest that half-thickness-modified binder mixes

(45 mm rubberised gap graded asphalt concrete) provide
better performance than the full thickness (90 mm),
conventional-graded asphalt concrete in terms of reflective
cracking resistance. Louisiana department of transportation (DOT) initiated a survey of current state practices to
delay and mitigate reflective cracking in composite
pavement (Elseifi and Bandaru 2011). It is found that
saw and seal, and chip seal are the most cost-effective
treatments as compared with regular hot-mixture asphalt
(HMA) overlay, stress-absorbing membrane interlayer
(SAMI) and high-strain asphalt crack relief interlayer.
Wisconsin DOT tried a fine aggregate, asphalt-rich,
polymer-modified asphalt mix interlayer over cracked
Portland cement concrete pavement and built test sections
in 1996. Long-term observations suggest an average 42%
improvement compared with control sections in terms of
delaying reflective cracking development (Makowski et al.
2005). More information concerning filed investigations
can be found in publications by Bennert et al. (2009),
Blankenship et al. (2004) and Rajagopal et al. (2004).
FEM is a frequently used method to evaluate the effect
of certain treatment to suppress the reflective cracking
development. Baek and Al-Qadi (2011) built a threedimensional (3D) FEM to examine the effect of a sand mix
layer and found an enhancement of reflective cracking


B. Yu et al.

resistance capacity by a factor of 1.17 2.45. Zhao et al.

(2011) assessed the viscoelastic response of reflective
cracking under dynamic vehicle load in asphalt concrete
pavements via 3D FEM. Simulation results indicate that
the increase in vehicle speed and the damping factor of
pavement materials could delay the development of
reflective cracking effectively. Similar research can be
found in the study by Ulku et al. (2010), Baek and Al-Qadi
(2006), etc. However, the FEM simulation results need to
be validated by test data.
Compared with the former two methods, laboratory
test is a relatively reliable and cost-effective way to
estimate and evaluate the field performance of antireflective cracking treatments. Liao et al. (2005) used a
material test system (MTS) to apply both bending and
shearing loads to a composite beam, consisting of a
concrete slab and a hot asphalt mixture overlay, to simulate
reflective cracking. Dempsey (2002) devised an apparatus
which can substitute thermal-induced load with equivalent
displacement to simulate the effects of cyclic temperature
change, and evaluated the effectiveness of anti-reflective
cracking membranes; Bhattacharjee et al. (2008) and Wu
et al. (2008) used accelerated pavement test (APT) to
evaluate the fatigue performances of HMA in laboratory
which can also be used to evaluate the effects of various
anti-reflective cracking measures; similarly, Tsai et al.
(2006) adopted HVS on a full-scale pavement structure to
perform accelerated pavement test in order to investigate
the effects of commonly used anti-reflective cracking
strategies in California. Gallego and Prieto (2006) devised
a wheel reflective cracking (WRC) apparatus based on the
traditional wheel-tracking device and used it to simulate
the chief failure mechanisms leading to reflective cracking
in laboratory. The test results by WRC are consistent with
full-scale test section results.
Although more attention has been devoted to the
evaluation of anti-reflective cracking measures, many
studies mainly focused on tension and shearing damage of
specimens with a concentration load (like MTS), which
cannot fully represent the field condition where vehicles
are moving on the pavement. For large-scale tests, such as
APT and HVS test, they are largely time and economy

Figure 1.

Specimen structures.

consuming. In this study, Hamburg wheel tracking tester

(HWTT) was used as an alternative to carry out the
research, which on one hand could apply repetitive
dynamic wheel load that is similar to the field condition,
and on the other hand, realised a time and economy saving
benefit. No discussion about the utility of HWTT to
evaluate the anti-relative cracking measures is presented in
this study since the authors cannot fund relevant studies.

Design of stress-absorbing interlayer specimens

Five types of specimens were designed and tested, including
specimens without any stress-absorbing interlayer (control
specimens), and specimens with one of the four stressabsorbing interlayers: SBS asphalt sand concrete, asphaltrubber sand concrete, fibreglass-polyester paving mat and
SAMI. Using the anti-reflective cracking measures, the first
two were self-designed with fine gradation and high
percentage of binder, whereas the latter two were frequently
used in field projects. It was desired to measure their antireflective cracking abilities in the laboratory environment.
The test recorded the number of load repetitions on each
specimen to assess the effectiveness of various anti-reflective
cracking measures. The following steps were carried out
before the test. The test specimen preparation follows the
ASTM and ASSTO standards.
(1) Preparation of the specimen structure:
The substructure (from top to bottom) consisted of a
surface layer, a stress-absorbing interlayer and a base
layer. However, the physical thickness of SAMI and
fibreglass-polyester paving mat interlayers will be
ignored in the subsequent FEM, and instead of using
solid elements, membrane elements will be assigned
to the two interlayers. The reason to model SAMI
using membrane elements is because the structure of
SAMI can resist little bending moment and behave
more approximately to a membrane than a solid.
Figure 1 illustrates the general structure of the
Cement concrete slab was prepared in advance with a
dimension of 29 cm in length, 29 cm in width and
4 cm in thickness. Before the placement of HMA, a

International Journal of Pavement Engineering

Asphalt Pavement Design). A No. 70 base asphalt is used

for the surface layer, with its properties are listed in
Table 2. The optimum asphalt aggregate ratio is 5.1 by
Superpave gyratory compaction test (ASSTO T312), and
the air void content of the surface layer is 4.5%.
Table 3 shows the gradation of the asphalt sand
concrete. The design air void content is 1.5% and the
optimum asphalt aggregate ratio is 8.5% based on
Superpave gyratory compaction test (ASSTO T312). It is
a finer gradation and has a higher asphalt aggregate ratio
than AC-13.
The properties of SBS-modified asphalt and asphaltrubber are also shown in Table 2. The asphalt-rubber was
produced in the laboratory by mixing rubber powder with
No. 70 base asphalt complying with a mass ratio of 18:82.
Table 4 lists the technical indices of the rubber powder.
The properties of fibreglass-polyester paving mat are
listed in Table 5 . The fibreglass-polyester paving mat was
glued to the concrete slab using the asphalt binder and then
overlaid with AC-13 layer. As for the SAMI specimens, the
asphalt-rubber was firstly brushed on the concrete slab at a
rate of 2.0 kg/m2 and then the components of SAMI were
mixed evenly and sprayed to be saturated in the asphaltrubber at a rate of 16 ^ 2 kg/m2 (Table 6). Lastly, AC-13
was placed over the SAMI to form the SAMI specimens.

tack coat of emulsified asphalt binder was brushed at

a rate of 0.4 0.5 kg/m2.
(2) Preparation of concrete slab, lay down and compaction of the mix:
Loose mixture was prepared in batches and aged
according to short-term ageing protocol (ASTM
D6521). The mix was then laid down on the concrete
slab and compacted using vibratory roller compactor
to produce a uniform thickness of 4 cm.
(3) Cutting and removing the test slabs:
After the compacted mixture cooled down, the
concrete slab was turned upside down and cut through
to represent cracks in the base layer of the real
pavement structure. The whole section was then cut
into four equal parts and was removed and stored in
separate places for test.

Material properties and gradations of each alternative

This section mainly focuses on the introduction of material
properties and aggregate gradations. Table 1 shows the
gradation of the surface layer. The gradation of surface
layer is asphalt concrete-13 (AC-13, 13 stands for nominal
maximum aggregate size, which is a typical gradation used
in China cited from JTG D50-2006, Chinese Standards for
Table 1.

Gradation of AC-13.

Sieve size (mm)

Per cent passing

Table 2.










Properties of various asphalt.

Test item

Test condition

Penetration, 0.1 mm (ASTM D946)

Softening point, 8C (ASTM D36)
Ductility, cm (ASTM D113)
Elasticity recovery, % (ASTM D6084)
Viscosity, Pa s (ASTM D2171)
Rolling thin-film oven test (1638C, 5 h) (ASTM D2872)
Mass loss (%)
Softening point (8C)
Ductility (cm)
Viscosity (Pa s)
Dynamic shear Rheometer (ASTM D7175)
G*/sind (kPa)
G*sind (kPa)
Bending beam Rheometer (ASTM D6648)
Stiffness (MPa)
2 128C, aged
M value

Table 3.


No. 70 base asphalt


SBS-modified asphalt




2 0.133









Gradation of asphalt sand concrete.

Sieve size (mm)

Per cent passing










B. Yu et al.

Table 4.

Mesh and technical requirement of rubber powder.

Mesh of rubber powder

Technical requirements

Sieve size (mm)

Per cent passing

Test item


65 100
20 100
0 45

Viscosity (1778C), Pa s (ASTMD2171)

Penetration degree (258C, 100 g, 5 s), 0.1 mm (ASTM D946)
Softening point, 8C (ASTM D36)
Elastic recovery (258C), % (ASTM D6084)

Table 5.

Properties of fibreglass-polyester paving mat.

Density, g/m2 (ASTM D5261)

Asphalt absorbing capacity, L/m2 (ASTM D570)
Melting point, 8C (ASTM D276)
Longitudinal tensile strength, N/cm (ASTM D5035)
Longitudinal tensile elongation, % (ASTM D5035)
Transverse tensile strength, N/cm (ASTM D5035)
Transverse tensile elongation, % (ASTM D5035)

Table 6.

. 230

Gradation of SAMI.

Sieve size (mm)

Per cent passing





Design of HWTT and analysis of test results

The HWTT (Figure 2) was used to study the development
of reflective cracking under repetitive dynamic wheel load.
The test was run at a loading rate of 52 cycles/min with a
load pressure of 0.7 MPa at a temperature of 158C. The
reason for the selection of 0.7 MPa is because it is the
standard axle pressure used in China. The number of load
repetitions at damage of each specimen was recorded
manually, and was used to evaluate the effectiveness of
various anti-reflective cracking measures. The criterion for
damage was set as the occurrence of cracks at the bottom
of surface layer for all the specimens.

Figure 2.

Hamburg wheel tracking tester.

Technical index
1.5 4.0
$ 25
$ 54
$ 60

Originally, rubber pad (compressive strength: 70 MPa,

thickness 2.5 cm 2) was placed under specimens to
represent the effect of subgrade. Even after a hundred
thousands of load repetitions, however, no sign of damage
within the specimen was observed. Therefore, the test was
redesigned to accelerate the damage process. The specimen was simply supported (no vertical displacement) at
the edges (see Figure 3), acted as a one-way slab, with a
load area of 5 cm by 2 cm running through the specimen
repetitively. There are some limitations of HWTT: first,
comparisons are just based on one specimen of each
configuration that is split into four equal pieces (as
indicated in Table 7), and thus sample size is limited;
second, the specimen size is of 29 cm in length, 7 cm in
width and 4 cm in thickness, which may lead to a scale
effect concern as compared with real pavement structure;
and third, the load condition is not consistent with practical
situations. Despite these shortcomings, HWTT can still
serve as a useful tool to evaluate the effects of various antireflective cracking measures following the analysis of
subsequent content.
Test results were recorded manually by observations of
the satisfaction of failure criterion for each specimen. For
instance, as shown in Figure 4, the crack was propagated
from the original base crack to the bottom surface layer for
interlayered samples, and we deemed it to satisfy the
failure criterion. The shortcoming of this approach is that
the specimens were observed by eyes so that the test
results were somewhat subjective. To overcome it, the test

Figure 3. Schematic diagram of the test (cm).

International Journal of Pavement Engineering

Table 7.

Results of the test.


Failure cycles

Control specimens (no stress-absorbing interlayer)

SBS asphalt sand concrete interlayer
Asphalt-rubber sand concreter interlayer
Fibreglass-polyester paving mat


results were truncated by their last two digital numbers and

this accuracy was enough to differentiate the rank of each
alternative. The test results are summarised in Table 7.
As reflected in Table 7, asphalt-rubber sand concrete
interlayer exhibited the best performance, with an average
life cycle of 55,250 and a standard deviation (SD) of 6000.
Fibreglass-polyester paving mat interlayer ranked next,
with a mean value of 39,000. SBS-modified asphalt sand
interlayer (25,925) and SAMI (25,000) showed similar
capacities to retard reflective cracking development. The
control specimen (no stress-absorbing interlayer) proved
the least resistant to reflective cracking, with a mean value
of 7400. The test result quality is reflected by the ratio of
SD to mean value. The smaller the ratio is, the more stable
the test result is. The ratios of asphalt-rubber sand concrete
interlayer and SAMI are quite small, suggesting that the
test results are stable, whereas for control specimens, SBS
asphalt sand concrete interlayer and fibreglass-polyester

Figure 4.


Damage appearance of specimens.










paving mat, the ratios are much higher, but still at an

acceptable level, indicating that no strong discretisation is
observed so that the test results are valid. The results also
suggest that suitable anti-reflective cracking measures can
prolong the fatigue life of specimens substantially. Figure 4
exhibits the damage appearances of each alternative. This
is a natural result since either the geometric thickness of
the HMA layer is increased or an interlayer is added.
However, different modification strategies prove to have
significant differences in their anti-reflective cracking
The superior performance of asphalt-rubber sand
concrete interlayer is attributable to the effective stress
dissipation by the fine gradation and low stiffness of
asphalt sand concrete material, acting as a cushion.
Modified by rubber powder, the rubber-asphalt exhibited a
significant performance improvement compared with the
base asphalt. Its PG grade was promoted from PG 64-22 to


B. Yu et al.

PG 82-28 (Cao and Chen 2008), indicating that waste

rubber is an excellent modifying agent. Aside from the
anti-reflective cracking merit, this option can serve as a
waterproofing layer due to its low air voids and prevent the
water penetration into the base layer. Fibreglass-polyester
paving mat has high resistance to tensile stress and a low
elongation rate, whereas a finite element analysis, as
discussed in the following section, revealed that tensile
stress and strain were dominant in the specimens with
fibreglass-polyester paving mat. This explains the above
average performance of the fibreglass-polyester paving
mat interlayer. Due to the existence of large air voids
among aggregates, SAMI could not only mitigate the
stress concentration around the crack tip, but also redirect
the path for the crack propagation, which should help
delay the development of reflective cracking. In the
current test, however, the aggregates were bound by
rubberised asphalt, which did not provide strong connection between aggregates to resist the tension traction, the
dominating failure incentive of the test specimens under
the set-up of the HWTT. Therefore, the test results for
SAMI were not as sound as the former two.
One phenomenon to emphasise here is some
specimens witnessed debonding before the failure,
whereas the majority remained tightly connected. The
reason behind this may be the weak strength between
the surface layer and the interlayer or the base concrete
due to sample variation. Intuitively, the debonding may
accelerate the failure of specimens due to the loss of
integrity of specimen structure. However, the failure of
the specimens shall still be dominated by the stress and
strain within the specimens, since the majority of the
specimen did not suffer from debonding. In simple
words, vertical cracks, not the debonding, are the
failure mechanisms.
Finite element analysis of the laboratory and the real
FEMs of specimens with and without the stress-absorbing
interlayer were constructed in accordance with the HWTT
by finite element software ABAQUS, respectively. This
FEM simulation was not intended to accurately represent
the test scenarios, but to give a general estimation to
interpret and support the test results. Therefore, some
simplifications were made here: tyre model was not used
but instead, a tyre/specimen contact pressure was applied;
specimen material properties were assumed as elasticity
and the typical values were at the test temperature.
(The dimensions of each model the one with or without
used the stress-absorbing interlayer) were identical to
those illustrated in Figure 1. Boundary conditions of these
models were set to be continuous between the two layers,
and fixed at the two ends. The modulus of the stressabsorbing interlayer was selected as 600 MPa (Dai 2007).

A dynamic wheel load was applied with a contact pressure

of 0.7 MPa and a contact area of 5 cm by 2 cm to simulate
the tyre/specimen interaction. The pressure was moving
from one end of the specimen to the other at a speed of
25 cm/s to simulate one cycle of HWTT. This treatment
was justified as the stress distribution inside the specimens
was of interest, not the stress evolution within the contact
patch or tyre. And all the materials were deemed as linear
elastic which was reasonable at a temperature of 158C.
The models with the stress-absorbing interlayers were
specially treated about their interlayers. Specifically, for
the 2 cm asphalt sand concrete interlayer, solid elements
were used to simulate (namely, solid model); for the SAMI
and the fibreglass-polyester paving mat interlayer, the
thickness was ignored because these two layers have little
bending resistance and membrane elements were adopted
(namely, membrane model). Details of the models are
shown in Table 8.
A model for the real pavement was also built for
comparison with those for test specimens (namely, real
pavement model). The dimension of the model is 6 m by
4 m with boundary conditions being continuous between
layers, fixed at the bottom and zero displacement in the
horizontal axis. A static load with a pressure of 0.7 MPa
and a contact area of 23 cm by 63 cm at the centre of
surface layer was applied, which was derived from
transforming the circular contact pattern into a rectangular
pattern with the area being equivalent. Parameter values
for the model are listed in Table 9. The parameters in
Tables 8 and 9 are typical values cited from JTG D502006, the Chinese Standards for Asphalt Pavement
Design, for each material at the temperature of 158C.
For all the models, a through cut was applied to the
base layer to represent an existing crack. Meanwhile,
singularity elements were assigned around the crack tip to
assure computation accuracy. Table 10 summarises the
calculation results. The main conclusions or suggestions
from the FEM analysis include:
(1) Whether there is a stress-absorbing interlayer or not,
the maximum tensile stress and strain within specimens are much higher than the maximum shear stress
and strain, indicating that tensile stress is a
dominating incentive.
(2) The stress and strain levels in the model with a stressabsorbing interlayer are reduced significantly compared with those in a model without the stressabsorbing interlayer. Tensile stress decreases from
Table 8. Parameters of HWTT model.
Stress-absorbing interlayer
Base concrete

Modulus (MPa)

Poissons ratio



International Journal of Pavement Engineering

Table 9.

Parameters of real pavement model.

Modulus (MPa)

Poissons ratio

Thickness (m)





Table 10.

Results of FEM simulation.

Solid model
Membrane model
Without interlayer
Real pavement

Maximum Maximum Maximum Maximum





Notes: The maximum tensile and shear stresses are defined as the maximum
horizontal tensile stress and vertical shear stress, respectively. They all locate
around crack tip.

0.28 to 0.13, 0.09 MPa, and tensile strain decreases

from 169 1026 to 75 1026, 59 1026. The shear
stress and strain are also reduced significantly. This is
good news for options that are designed to alleviate
the tensile stress but not equivalently sound for the
option that has different anti-reflective mechanism, as
is the case of SAMI. Therefore, the conclusion about
SAMI, accordingly, needs to be carefully made.
(3) The test exaggerates the tensile stress in comparison
with real pavement model: the maximum tensile
strain is 169 1026 in the model without interlayers,
75 1026 and 59 1026 in models with interlayers,
whereas the maximum tensile strain is 44 1026 in
real pavement model.
(4) Tensile stress and strain in real pavement assume a
similar value which differs from the stress makeup in
HWTT model. It is an inevitable result and tradeoff of
the simply supported test condition to accelerate the
test. For this difference, the field performances of the
alternatives are likely to remain the same in rank
because even in a real pavement model, tensile stress
and strain are larger than shear stress and strain
except for SAMI. In other words, SAMI may witness
an improved field performance as compared with the
laboratory test results because tensile stress and strain
are less significant in the field condition.
In this study, laboratory tests were conducted for reflective
cracking using a HWTT. Four stress-absorbing interlayers
were designed and tested, including SBS asphalt sand
concrete, asphalt-rubber sand concrete, fibreglass-polyester
paving mat and SAMI. Specimens without anti-reflective


cracking measures were also juxtaposed to serve as control.

The following conclusions were obtained:
(1) Using HWTT to study load-induced reflective cracking
was reasonable due to the use of a dynamic wheel load.
(2) For the effects of various anti-reflective cracking
measures under laboratory test environments, asphaltrubber sand concrete was the best whereas fibreglasspolyester paving mat ranked next; SBS asphalt sand
concrete and SAMI were at the same level and less
competitive. However, SAMI may possess an
improved field performance due to the limitation of
the laboratory test set-up.
(3) Suitable anti-reflective cracking measures could greatly
prolong the fatigue life of specimens.
(4) Debonding between base and stress-absorbing interlayer occurred during the test which was also observed
in field pavement, so adequate bonding condition
should be emphasised during pavement construction.
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