Level II scour analysis for Bridge 37 (PLYMTH00080037) on Town Highway 8, crossing Broad Brook, Plymouth, Vermont

Open-File Report 98-556

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 PLYMTH00080037 on Town Highway 8 crossing Broad Brook, Plymouth, 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 (FHWA, 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, gathered 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 Green Mountain section of the New England physiographic province in south-central Vermont. The 5.6-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover is forest upstream and downstream of the bridge.

In the study area, Broad Brook has an incised, sinuous channel with a slope of approximately 0.02 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 46 ft and an average bank height of 5 ft. The channel bed material ranges from gravel to boulders with a median grain size (D50) of 87.5 mm (0.287 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on October 3, 1995, indicated that the reach was laterally unstable due to cut-banks present on the upstream left bank and the downstream left and right banks.

The Town Highway 8 crossing of Broad Brook is a 31-ft-long, one-lane bridge consisting of a 28-foot steel-stringer span (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, March 22, 1995). The opening length of the structure parallel to the bridge face is 27.0 ft. The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments with wingwalls. The channel is skewed approximately 15 degrees to the opening while the opening-skew-to-roadway is 15 degrees.

During the Level I assessment, it was observed that the left abutment footing was exposed 1.25 ft at the downstream end, and the subfooting was exposed 1 ft. Scour protection measures at the site included type-1 stone fill (less than 12 inches diameter) along the upstream right wingwall, the right abutment and the downstream right wingwall. Type-2 stone fill (less than 36 inches diameter) was along the upstream left wingwall, the upstream end of the left abutment and the downstream end of the downstream left wingwall. 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 Davis, 1995) for the 100- and 500-year discharges. In addition, the incipient roadway-overtopping discharge was determined and analyzed as another potential worst-case scour scenario. 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 0.5 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the incipient roadway-overtopping discharge, which was less than the 100-year discharge. Left abutment scour ranged from 11.1 to 12.0 ft. Right abutment scour ranged from 3.0 to 7.7 ft. The worst-case abutment scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Pier scour ranged from 6.2 to 7.1 ft. The worst-case pier scour also 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 Davis, 1995, p. 46). 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.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Level II scour analysis for Bridge 37 (PLYMTH00080037) on Town Highway 8, crossing Broad Brook, Plymouth, Vermont
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Pembroke, NH
iv, 50 p.
United States