Engineers Australia

Case study: Compaction of coal ash fill by impact rolling as a method of subgrade improvement beneath a heavy duty pavement

R. Rohleder and H. Stallard


An intermodal logistics centre for bulk distribution of shipping containers by both road and rail is currently under construction at a site near Enfield in SW Sydney. The 70 ha project site was used as a rail maintenance facility until the early 1990’s, when it was largely dismantled. A container terminal yard will occupy approximately one-third of the project site, which will require construction of a heavy duty pavement to support the operational loads. The design of the terminal area is based on construction of a uniform earthworks platform, requiring both cut and fill to attain design levels, to act as a stable subgrade for the pavement layers. Previous studies revealed the presence of poorly compacted fills across the site that vary significantly both in composition and thickness. Of particular interest was the presence of a significant volume of coal ash fill, which was the thickest fill deposit across a large part of the site. The coal ash was found to be poorly compacted, but laboratory testing indicated it could achieve high strength and CBR index values when compacted to a dense state. The coal ash could thus be treated in place and incorporated into the subgrade earthworks or it could be mined and re-used as general fill in other parts of the site. A programme of field compaction trials was implemented, using conventional vibratory rollers and also impact rollers to determine the optimum compaction method for the coal ash and other fill materials. The field trials showed that compaction of the coal ash significantly reduced its void ratio by approximately 30% with corresponding settlement on compaction. The outcome of these field trials enabled the contractor to develop a ground treatment methodology tailored to the fill material type, which also conformed to the design specification for the subgrade layers.