Flexible Pavement versus Rigid Pavement

Traditionally, pavements are classified into two categories, namely flexible and rigid pavements. The basis for classification is the way by which traffic loads are transmitted to the subgrade soil through the pavement structure.
Fig. 1: General Stratification of Flexible and Rigid Pavements
As shown in Fig. 2-a flexible pavement provides sufficient thickness for load distribution through a multilayer structure so that the stresses and strains in the subgrade soil layers are within the required limits. It is expected that the strength of subgrade soil would have a direct bearing on the total thickness of the flexible pavement. The layered pavement structure is designed to take advantage of the decreasing magnitude of stresses with depth.

Fig. 2: Flexible and Rigid Pavement
A rigid pavement, by virtue of its rigidity, is able to effect a slab action to spread the wheel load over the entire slab area, as illustrated in Fig. 2-d. The structural capacity of the rigid pavement is largely provided by the slab itself. For the common range of subgrade soil strength, the required rigidity for a Portland cement concrete slab (the most common form of rigid pavement construction) can be achieved without much variation in slab thickness. The effect of subgrade soil properties on the thickness of rigid pavement is therefore much less important than in the case of flexible pavement.

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