Corrugation of roads

Joseph A. Both, Daniel C. Hong, Douglas A. Kurtze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We present a one dimensional model for the development of corrugations in roads subjected to compressive forces from a flux of cars. The cars are modeled as damped harmonic oscillators translating with constant horizontal velocity across the surface, and the road surface is subject to diffusive relaxation. We derive dimensionless coupled equations of motion for the positions of the cars and the road surface H(x, t), which contain two phenomenological variables: an effective diffusion constant Δ(H) that characterizes the relaxation of the road surface, and a function a(H) that characterizes the plasticity or erodibility of the road bed. Linear stability analysis shows that corrugations grow if the speed of the cars exceeds a critical value, which decreases if the flux of cars is increased. Modifying the model to enforce the simple fact that the normal force exerted by the road can never be negative seems to lead to restabilized, quasi-steady road shapes, in which the corrugation amplitude and phase velocity remain fixed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-559
Number of pages15
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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