Level II scour analysis for Bridge 42 (BETHTH00860042) on Town Highway 86, crossing Gilead Brook, Bethel, Vermont

Open-File Report 96-310

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 BETHTH00860042 on town highway 86 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 were 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 11.4-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the upstream banks are tree covered and the downstream banks are covered with shrubs and brush.

In the study area, Gilead Brook is probably incised, has a sinuous channel with a slope of approximately 0.012 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 53 ft, and an average channel depth of 5 ft. The predominant channel bed material is gravel to cobbles (D50 is 85.6 mm or 0.281 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on September 30, 1994, indicated that the reach was stable.

The town highway 86 crossing of Gilead Brook is a 28-ft-long, one-lane bridge consisting of one 25-foot clear-span structure with a concrete deck (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written commun., August 24, 1994). The bridge is supported by concrete abutments with wingwalls. The bridge skew is approximately 5 degrees and there is no opening-skew-to-roadway.

A scour hole approximately 1 ft deeper than the mean thalweg depth was observed along the left bank, near the upstream bridge face during the Level I assessment. There is also approximately 1 ft of scour along the left abutment of the bridge, near the upstream wing wall, exposing the footing. There is type-one (less than 12 in diameter) protection on the US left wingwall and type-two (less than 36 in diameter) along the US and DS right wingwalls. There is no protection along the abutments. 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 to 1.9 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the incipient-overtopping discharge and the 100-year discharge. Abutment scour ranged from 8.6 to 15.7 ft. The worst-case abutment scour occurred 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, 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 engineering judgement.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Level II scour analysis for Bridge 42 (BETHTH00860042) on Town Highway 86, crossing Gilead Brook, Bethel, Vermont
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Pembroke, NH
iv, 50 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Gilead Brook