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Chapter: Civil : Highway Engineering : Geometric Design Of Highways

Summit curve

Summit curves are vertical curves with gradient upwards.

Summit curve


Summit curves are vertical curves with gradient upwards. They are formed when two gradients meet as illus-trated in any of the following four ways:


=  when a  positive  gradient meets  another positive gradient


1 Types of  Summit Curve


Many curve forms can be used with satisfactory results, the common practice has been to use parabolic curves in summit curves. This is primarily because of the ease with it can be laid out as well as allowing a comfortable transition from one gradient to another. Although a circular curve offers equal sight distance at every point on the curve, for very small deviation angles a circular curve and parabolic curves are almost congruent. Furthermore, the use of parabolic curves were found to give excellent riding comfort


In determining the type and length of the vertical curve, the design considerations are comfort and security of the driver, and the appearance of the pro le alignment. Among these, sight distance requirements for the safety is most important on summit curves. The stopping sight distance or absolute minimum sight distance should be provided on these curves and where overtaking is not prohibited, overtaking sight distance or intermediate sight distance should be provided as far as possible. When a fast moving vehicle travels along a summit curve, there is less discomfort to the passengers. This is because the centrifugal force will be acting upwards while the vehicle negotiates a summit curve which is against the gravity and hence a part of the tyre pressure is relieved. Also if the curve is provided with adequate sight distance, the length would be sufficient to ease the shock due to change in gradient. Circular summit curves are identical since the radius remains same throughout and hence the sight distance. From this point of view, transition curves are not desirable since it has varying radius and so the sight distance will also vary. The deviation angle provided on summit curves for highways are very large, and so


the a simple parabola is almost congruent to a circular arc, between the same tangent points. Parabolic curves is easy for computation and also it had been found out that it provides good riding comfort to the drivers. It is also easy for field implementation. Due to all these reasons, a simple parabolic curve is preferred as summit curve.


Length of the summit curve


The important design aspect of the summit curve is the determination of the length of the curve which is parabolic. As noted earlier, the length of the curve is guided by the sight distance consideration. That is, a driver should be able to stop his vehicle safely if there is an obstruction on


the other side of the road. Equation of the parabola is given by y = ax2, where N is the deviation angle and L is the length of the In deriving the length of the curve, two situations can arise depending on the uphill and downhill gradients when the length of the curve is greater than the sight distance and the length of the curve is greater than the sight distance.

2 Design considerations for valley curve


There is no restriction to sight distance at valley curves during day time. But visibility is reduced during night. In the absence or inadequacy of street light, the only source for visibility is with the help of headlights. Hence valley curves are designed taking into account of headlight distance. In valley curves, the centrifugal force will be acting downwards along with the weight of the vehicle, and hence impact to the vehicle will be more. This will result in jerking of the vehicle and cause discomfort to the passengers. Thus the most important design factors considered in valley curves are:


(1) impact-free movement of vehicles at design speed and (2) availability of stopping sight distance under headlight of vehicles for night driving.


For gradually introducing and increasing the centrifugal force acting downwards, the best shape that could be given for a valley curve is a transition curve. Cubic parabola is generally preferred in vertical valley curves.


During night, under headlight driving condition, sight distance reduces and availability of stopping sight distance under head light is very important. The head light sight distance should be at least equal to the stopping sight distance. There is no problem of overtaking sight distance at night since the other vehicles with headlights could be seen from a considerable distance.


3 Length of  the valley curve


The  valley curve  is  made  fully transitional  by providing two  similar  transition curves of equal length The transitional curve is set out by a cubic parabola y = bx3 . The length of the valley transition curve is designed based on two criteria: comfort  criteria;  that  is      allowable  rate  of  change  of  centrifugal  acceleration  is limited to a comfortable level of about 0:6m=sec3.

safety criteria;  that  is the       driver should have adequate headlight sight distance at any part of the country.

Comfort criteria


The length of the valley curve based on the rate of change of centrifugal acceleration that will ensure comfort: Let c is the rate of change of acceleration, R the minimum radius of the curve, v is the design speed and t is


where L is the total length of valley curve, N is the deviation angle in radians or tangent of the deviation angle or the algebraic difference in grades, and c is the allowable rate of change of

centrifugal acceleration which may be taken as 0:6m=sec3.


Safety criteria


Length of the valley curve for headlight distance may be determined for two conditions: (1) length of the valley curve greater than stopping sight distance and (2) length of the valley curve less than the stopping sight distance.




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