Level II scour analysis for Bridge 38 (TOPSTH00570038) on Town Highway 57, crossing Waits River, Topsham, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-649

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 TOPSTH00570038 on Town Highway 57 crossing the Waits River, Topsham, 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 east central Vermont. The 37.3-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover is predominantly pasture while the left bank upstream is suburban.

In the study area, the Waits River has a sinuous locally anabranched channel with a slope of approximately 0.01 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 76 ft and an average bank height of 6 ft. The channel bed material ranges from sand to cobble with a median grain size (D50) of 57.2 mm (0.188 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on August 28, 1995, indicated that the reach was considered laterally unstable due to cut-banks upstream, mid-channel bars and lateral migration of the channel towards the left abutment.

The Town Highway 34 crossing of the Waits River is a 34-ft-long, one-lane bridge consisting of one 31-foot steel-beam span (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, March 28, 1995). The opening length of the structure parallel to the bridge face is 30.4 ft. The bridge is supported by a vertical, stone abutment with concrete facing and wingwalls on the right and by a vertical, concrete abutment with wingwalls on the left. The channel is skewed approximately 0 degrees to the opening and the opening-skew-to-roadway is also zero degrees.

A scour hole 2.0 ft deeper than the mean thalweg depth was observed towards the left bank underneath the bridge. The only scour protection measure at the site was type-2 stone fill (less than 36 inches diameter) along the left bank upstream, in the upstream left wing wall area, along the left abutment, at the downstream end of the right abutment, and in the downstream left wing wall area. There is type-3 stone fill (less than 48 inches diameter) in the downstream right wing wall area. 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 ranged from 1.6 to 5.2 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the 100-year discharge. Abutment scour ranged from 9.8 to 18.5 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). 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 38 (TOPSTH00570038) on Town Highway 57, crossing Waits River, Topsham, 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:
Waits River