Level II scour analysis for Bridge 10 (CHESTH00030010) on Town Highway 3 (VT 35), crossing the South Branch of Williams River, Chester, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-369
Prepared in cooperation with Vermont Agency of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration
By:  and 



This report provides the results of a detailed Level II analysis of scour potential at structure CHESTH00030010 on Town Highway 3 (VT 35) crossing the South Branch 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 9.44-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover is forest.

In the study area, the South Branch Williams River has an incised, sinuous channel with a slope of approximately 0.03 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 67 ft and an average bank height of 5 ft. The channel bed material ranges from gravel to boulder with a median grain size (D50) of 69.0 mm (0.226 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on August 26-27, 1996, indicated that the reach was stable.

The Town Highway 3 (VT 35) crossing of the South Branch Williams River is a 69-foot-long, two-lane bridge consisting of one 67-foot steel-stringer span with a concrete deck (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, August 23, 1994). The opening length of the structure parallel to the bridge face is 64.5 ft. The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments with spill-through embankments. The channel is skewed approximately 50 degrees to the opening while the opening-skew-to-roadway is 30 degrees.

The scour protection (spill-through abutments) measured at the site was type-3 stone fill (less than 48 inches diameter) extending the entire base length and around the ends of the left and right abutments. 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 modelled flows ranged from 0.8 to 3.8 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the incipient roadway-overtopping discharge. Left abutment scour ranged from 13.3 to 14.9 ft. The worst-case scour at the left abutment occurred at the 500-year discharge. Right abutment scour ranged from 4.1 to 6.0 ft. The worst-case scour at the right abutment occurred at the incipient roadway-overtopping 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). 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 Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Level II scour analysis for Bridge 10 (CHESTH00030010) on Town Highway 3 (VT 35), crossing the South Branch of Williams River, Chester, Vermont
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 97-369
DOI 10.3133/ofr97369
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Pembroke, NH
Description iv, 52 p.
Country United States
State Vermont
City Chester
Other Geospatial South Branch Williams River
Scale 24000
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