Level II scour analysis for Bridge 16 (CHESVT01030016) on State Route 103, crossing the Williams River, Chester, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-581

Prepared in cooperation with Vermont Agency of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration



This report provides the results of a detailed Level II analysis of scour potential at structure CHESVT01030016 on State Route 103 crossing the Williams River, Chester, Vermont (figures 1–8). A Level II study is a basic engineering analysis of the site, including a quantitative analysis of stream stability and scour (U.S. Department of Transportation, 1993). Results of a Level I scour investigation also are included in Appendix E of this report. A Level I investigation provides a qualitative geomorphic characterization of the study site. Information on the bridge, gleaned from Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTAOT) files, was compiled prior to conducting Level I and Level II analyses and is found in Appendix D.

The site is in the New England Upland section of the New England physiographic province in southeastern Vermont. The 15.1-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover is pasture except for the downstream right overbank which is forested.

In the study area, the Williams River has an incised, straight channel with a slope of approximately 0.008 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 56 ft and an average bank height of 6 ft. The channel bed material ranges from gravel to cobbles with a median grain size (D50) of 67.5 mm (0.222 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on September 16, 1996, indicated that the reach was stable.

The State Route 103 crossing of the Williams River is a 162-ft-long, two-lane bridge consisting of three steel-beam spans (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, March 13, 1995). The opening length of the structure parallel to the bridge face is 157.7 ft.The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments and piers with no wingwalls. The channel is skewed approximately 55 degrees to the opening while the opening-skew-to-roadway is also 55 degrees.

The scour protection measures at the site included type-4 stone fill (less than 60 inches diameter) along the upstream left bank. There was type-3 stone fill (less than 48 inches diameter) along the upstream right bank and both spill-through embankments and both downstream banks. There was type-1 stone fill (less than 12 inches diameter) along the upstream right and downstream left road embankments. Additional details describing conditions at the site are included in the Level II Summary and Appendices D and E.

Scour depths and recommended rock rip-rap sizes were computed using the general guidelines described in Hydraulic Engineering Circular 18 (Richardson and others, 1995). Total scour at a highway crossing is comprised of three components: 1) long-term streambed degradation; 2) contraction scour (due to accelerated flow caused by a reduction in flow area at a bridge) and; 3) local scour (caused by accelerated flow around piers and abutments). Total scour is the sum of the three components. Equations are available to compute depths for contraction and local scour and a summary of the results of these computations follows.

Contraction scour for all modelled flows was 0.0. Abutment scour ranged from 6.4 to 9.0 ft. The worst-case abutment scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Pier scour ranged from 7.9 to 10.1 ft. The worst-case pier scour occurred at the incipient-overtopping discharge for both piers. Additional information on scour depths and depths to armoring are included in the section titled “Scour Results”. Scoured-streambed elevations, based on the calculated scour depths, are presented in tables 1 and 2. A cross-section of the scour computed at the bridge is presented in figure 8. Scour depths were calculated assuming an infinite depth of erosive material and a homogeneous particle-size distribution.

It is generally accepted that the Froehlich equation (abutment scour) gives “excessively conservative estimates of scour depths” (Richardson and others, 1995, p. 47). Usually, computed scour depths are evaluated in combination with other information including (but not limited to) historical performance during flood events, the geomorphic stability assessment, existing scour protection measures, and the results of the hydraulic analyses. Therefore, scour depths adopted by VTAOT may differ from the computed values documented herein.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Level II scour analysis for Bridge 16 (CHESVT01030016) on State Route 103, crossing the Williams River, Chester, Vermont
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Pembroke, NH
iv, 54 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Williams River