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FHWA Home / Safety / Safety EdgeSM Design and Construction Guide

Safety EdgeSM Design and Construction Guide


In terms of paving operations, there is little difference between the placement and construction of AC and PCC materials (refer to Figure 1) with and without the inclusion of the Safety EdgeSM. However, there are important considerations that should be accounted for when incorporating the Safety EdgeSM into a paving operation. This section of the Guide highlights the general design and construction details when constructing a Safety EdgeSM in conjunction with AC or PCC pavements.

2.1 Safety EdgeSM Use

The Safety EdgeSM provides two important safety related functions. It serves as a mitigating measure to help with pavement edge drop off that occurs after an AC layer is placed, but before shoulders can be reconstructed flush with the paved surface. The Safety EdgeSM also serves as a long-term safety feature for areas susceptible to material displacement and/or erosion adjacent to the paved surface.

An additional benefit of the Safety EdgeSM is that the density of the AC mat adjacent to the pavement edge was found to be higher in most areas with the Safety EdgeSM in comparison to areas without the Safety EdgeSM. The Safety EdgeSM is believed to serve as a restriction to the lateral movement of the AC mat along an unconfined edge. This observation was found from multiple demonstration projects. Visual assessment of many Safety EdgeSM treatments have shown that trucks loaded with asphalt do not deform/damage the finished edge.

Close-up photo of asphalt SafetyEdge immediately behind the paver, before roller.
(a) AC Project.
Close-up photo of slip-formed PCC SafetyEdge using straight edge and ruler to show the breakpoint, angle, and height.
(b) PCC Project

Figure 1. Safety EdgeSM placed on an AC and PCC project.

Where the Safety EdgeSM Can Be Placed

The Safety EdgeSM can be used in almost every situation to provide a condition towards preventing near vertical lane-shoulder drop offs during construction and over time. It also provides added insurance until such time that maintenance personnel are able to repair eroded areas of the shoulder adjacent to the paved surface.

Where the Safety EdgeSM Should Not Be Placed

A site condition where the Safety EdgeSM should not be used is where the foreslope/embankment or ground surface has a steeper slope than the slope of the Safety EdgeSM. This condition may exist for a portion of the road being paved, thus the Safety EdgeSM should be considered for use on the remainder of the road. Figure 2 depicts this condition.

photo of horizontal curve with steep slope immediately adjacent to pavement and erosion is undermining the shoulder.
Figure 2. Example of where a foreslope/embankment is too steep for the Safety EdgeSM.

2.2 Pre-Construction and Discontinuous Paving Operations

The pre-construction activities for Safety EdgeSM projects are to review the paving plan and make sure the Safety EdgeSM can be placed in suitable areas along the project. If there are areas with restrictions along the edge of the pavement (for example, guardrails, intersections, and bridges), the width of the roadway and width of paving should be considered so that there is sufficient room for the Safety EdgeSM device for resurfacing projects. As an example, narrow bridges along some low volume roadways can result in conditions where the AC paver screed extensions cannot be moved-in sufficiently when using Safety EdgeSM devices that are bolted to the paver screed, so the paver operator must steer the paver more towards the center of the roadway during paving operations (center line crown or other cross slope changes need to be considered in these conditions). Other areas where the foreslope is steeper than the Safety EdgeSM slope should be noted. These conditions should be discussed in the contractors quality control plan and/or pre-paving meeting and how the condition will be resolved.

Paving across intersections and driveways with the Safety EdgeSM device in place is generally no different than when paving without the Safety EdgeSM. The differences for both AC and PCC paving are noted below. All of these conditions or paving anomalies should be identified and addressed prior to beginning paving operations.

Photo of multiple rollers compacting asphalt overlay at an intersection.
Figure 3. Placing an AC overlay at an intersection of a Safety EdgeSM project.

Photo of cured PCC pavement where SafetyEdge has been cut out to abut fresh pavement for an intersecting road.
Figure 4. Sawcut on a PCC project at an intersection to remove the Safety EdgeSM.

2.3 Pavement Edge/Shoulder Preparation

The pavement edge should be prepared in accordance with standard agency paving operations for both AC and PCC surfaces (refer to Figure 5).

Top photo: photo of motor grader removing grass and soil next to the existing pavement to prepare for an overlay. - Motor grader is used to remove vegetation and soil
build-up along the edge of the pavement.; Middle photo: photo of sweeper cleaning pavement in front of tack truck. - A motorized broom cleans the surface of the pavement prior to applying the tack coat to the
surface of the existing pavement; Bottom photo: photo of truck applying tack coat. - A tack coat is applied to the cleaned pavement surface prior to placing the asphalt overlay.
Figure 5. Surface preparation activities performed prior to placing an AC overlay.

The following items are highlighted to ensure the agency considers them as they have been shown to adversely impact Safety EdgeSM construction on some projects.

photo of SafetyEdge placed over existing vegetation.
Figure 6. Example of Safety EdgeSM placed on heavy vegetation – due to lack of adequate compaction the Safety EdgeSM will deteriorate.

2.4 Slope Measurement

Including the Safety EdgeSM on a new construction or resurfacing project does not impact the agency's material and construction specifications. The only difference in determining the quality between projects with and without the Safety EdgeSM is the measurement of slope for the as-built Safety EdgeSM itself. This part of the Guide discusses measuring the slope of the Safety EdgeSM.

Figure 7 illustrates how the slope is measured or determined for an AC resurfacing project. The length of line B is determined as the distance of a vertical virtual line from the edge or toe of the Safety EdgeSM to the pavement surface cross slope extended. The toe of the Safety EdgeSM can be defined as where a straight line along the surface of the Safety EdgeSM contacts the ground surface. This point becomes important for asphalt mixtures with larger nominal maximum sized aggregate where the removal of one coarse aggregate particle can significantly change the measured slope. The length of line A is determined as the distance from the point where there is space between the straight edge placed on the pavement surface at the edge, defined as the break point, and the vertical virtual line through the toe of the Safety EdgeSM or vertical line B. The angle, Ø, is calculated as Ø = arctan B/A. This angle measurement is the angle that the vehicle tire encounters when the vehicle is attempting to return to the pavement. The slope of a PCC Safety EdgeSM is determined in the same manner. The angle measurement is made on the sloped portion of the Safety EdgeSM and does not include the vertical portion of the PCC edge.

Close-up photo showing measurement of the SafetyEdge slope using a straight edge and a ruler to measure the rise (B) and run (A).
Figure 7. Measurement of Safety EdgeSM slope or angle.

2.5 Backing Material Placement

It should be remembered that the Safety EdgeSM is a mitigation of the drop off created by the AC or PCC overlay or new paved layer; it is not intended to substitute for a shoulder that is flush with the paved surface. After the paved layer or overlay has been placed, the shoulder or backing material needs to be graded back flush with the paved surface. The shoulder material should be placed in accordance with standard equipment and procedures specified by the owner agency for both AC and PCC pavements. The only cautionary note is to grade the backing or shoulder material over and along the Safety EdgeSM as soon as possible but, in the case of an AC pavement, after the mat has cooled sufficiently so that any scuffing or tearing of the surface from construction equipment is minimized. Similarly, PCC should be allowed to cure and gain sufficient strength so that the construction equipment grading the backing material does not damage the PCC Safety EdgeSM. After construction is completed, the Safety EdgeSM will be covered with the backing material and not seen by the road user as shown in Figure 8.

photo of pavement with SafetyEdge covered by fresh shoulder backing material flush with the top of the pavement.
Figure 8. Safety EdgeSM completely covered by shoulder backing material.

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Page last modified on September 6, 2017
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