Level II scour analysis for Bridge 43 (BETHTH00070043) on Town Highway 07, crossing Gilead Brook, Bethel, Vermont

Open-File Report 96-307

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 BETHTH00070043 on town highway 7 crossing Gilead Brook, Bethel, 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). A Level I study is included in Appendix E of this report. A Level I study provides a qualitative geomorphic characterization of the study site. Information on the bridge available from VTAOT files was compiled prior to conducting Level I and Level II analyses and can be found in Appendix D.

The site is in the Green Mountain physiographic province of central Vermont in the town of Bethel. The 6.81-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the banks have dense woody vegetation coverage except for the downstream right bank near the bridge, which is grass covered.

In the study area, Gilead Brook has an incised, slightly sinuous channel with a slope of approximately 0.0181 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 36 ft and an average channel depth of 4.0 ft. The predominant channel bed material is cobble (D50 is 79.6 mm or 0.261 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on October 19, 1994, indicated that the reach was stable.

The town highway 7 crossing of Gilead Brook is a 31-ft-long, two-lane bridge consisting of one 27-foot concrete slab type superstructure (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written commun., August 24, 1994). The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments with wingwalls. The channel is skewed approximately 30 degrees to the opening while the opening-skew-to-roadway is 15 degrees.

A scour hole 0.5 ft deeper than the mean thalweg depth was observed at the right side of the downstream bridge face during the Level I assessment. The scour protection measures in place at the site were type-1 stone fill (less than 12 inches diameter) along the right abutment and both downstream banks, type-2 stone fill (less than 36 inches diameter) on all of the road approach embankments, both upstream banks, and along the entire base length of the wingwalls. Additional details describing conditions at the site are included in the Level II Summary and Appendices D and E.

Scour depths and 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 ranged from 0.0 to 1.4 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the incipient overtopping discharge, which was between the 100- and 500-year discharges. Abutment scour ranged from 6.6 to 11.0 ft. with the worst-case scenario occurring at the 500-year discharge. 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). Many factors, including historical performance during flood events, the geomorphic assessment, scour protection measures, and the results of the hydraulic analyses, must be considered to properly assess the validity of abutment scour results. Therefore, scour depths adopted by VTAOT may differ from the computed values documented herein, based on the consideration of additional contributing factors and experienced engineering judgement.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Level II scour analysis for Bridge 43 (BETHTH00070043) on Town Highway 07, crossing Gilead Brook, Bethel, Vermont
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Pembroke, NH
iv, 51 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Gilead Brook