Non-Destructive Evaluation of Railway Track Using Ground Penetrating Radar [Research Results]
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Non-Destructive Evaluation of Railway Track Using Ground Penetrating Radar [Research Results]

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    The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Research and Development sponsored a study under the Track and Structures Program for evaluating railway track conditions using ground-penetrating radar (GPR). The track conditions targeted by the GPR research contribute to its overall performance and the safety of railway operations including the rate of track geometry deterioration, track buckling potential, and overall track support conditions as covered by the FRA Railway Accident Incident Reporting Systems (RAIRS) train accident cause codes T101-T108, T109, and T001, respectively (FRA, 1997). GPR can provide a rapid, non-destructive inspection for evaluating railway track substructure integrity. The equipment is non-contact and allows data collection at normal vehicle track speed. GPR provides continuous top-of-rail measurements of substructure layer conditions, with the potential to measure the layer thickness, water content, and density of the substructure components (ballast, sub ballast, subgrade). GPR is also capable of observing trapped water from poor drainage, soft subgrade due to high water content and related deformation, and is potentially capable of distinguishing fouled ballast from clean ballast. The study shows that GPR can quantify the thickness, lateral, and longitudinal extent of substructure layers. GPR can provide useful profiles of the track substructure showing variation in condition and depth along and across the track, indicative of differences in track performance.
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