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Innovative Subgrade Treatment Solutions on SH161

December 9, 2020

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Frank Carmichael

Project Manager

Located in the Heart of Texas, the DFW Metroplex is a bustling metropolis that is constantly growing and expanding. The President George Bush Turnpike includes a portion of State Highway (SH) 161 and is an important part of this infrastructure. This 6.5-mile tollway from Irving to Grand Prairie, is a crucial segment of the turnpike connecting several of the busiest suburbs.

This roadway was the first ever design-build project in the history of North Texas Tollway Authority. The unique process provided extra opportunities for collaboration among designers and construction. HVJ Associates® became involved in the $416 million project as a subcontractor for Professional Service Industries, Inc. alongside AECOM and provided pavement designs for the ramps and main lanes.


One of the biggest challenges of this project, which relied heavily on HVJ’s expertise, was a common arch nemesis of all Texas road construction, Eagle Ford Shale. The problem was two-fold. Dwelling underneath a fat clay subgrade, Eagle Ford Shale is a sedimentary rock formation known for its weakness as a highly expansive material requiring treatment for a durable pavement. Additionally, the formation is known to contain high sulfates and chlorides, which limited the subgrade stabilization options. This concern is compounded when roadway design requires cutting down into the formation, as much as 40-feet at some locations. The question becomes not only how to treat this material during construction, but also how to best maintain the roadway’s longevity. The overall goal was to manage these unsuitable subgrade soils cost-effectively and achieve the project schedule requirements.


While the shale provided challenging conditions, HVJ was able to ensure pavement integrity with an innovative subgrade treatment using moisture conditioning. This solution supplied suitable pavement support while eliminating the need to excavate, remove, and replace significant volumes of material. In addition to delivering significant cost efficiency and time savings for the project, this alternative also significantly reduced impact to traffic and the environment during construction.

These achievements were recognized when Engineering News Record selected SH-161 as the Best Highway and Bridge Project for 2013 in Texas and Louisiana. However, the greatest recognition comes in the form of silent success as the roadway continues to perform.

Learn more about how HVJ Associates aided in designing this marvelous highway by reading the case study here.

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