Large scale static lateral load tests were completed on a pile cap with wingwalls under several different sand backfill configurations: no backfill, loosely compacted unconfined, loosely compacted slip plane wall confined, loosely compacted MSE wingwall confined, and densely compacted MSE wingwall confined. The relative compaction of the backfill was varied during each test to observe the change in passive resistance provided by the backfill. The wall types were varied to observe the force placed on the walls and the wall displacement as a result of the laterally loaded pile cap and backfill relative compaction. Passive force-displacement curves were generated from each test. It was found that the densely compacted material provided a much greater passive resistance than the loosely compacted material by 43% (251 kips) when confined by MSE walls. The outward displacement of the MSE walls decreased noticeably for the dense MSE test relative to the loose MSE test. Backfill cracking and heave severity also increased as the relative compaction level of the backfill increased. As the maximum passive force was reached, the reinforcement reached their peak pullout resistance. Correlations were developed between the passive pressure acting on the pile cap and the pressure measured on the MSE wingwalls as a function of distance from the pile cap for both loose and dense backfills. The pressure measured on the wingwalls was approximately 3 to 9% of the pressure acting on the pile cap. As the distance from the pile cap increased, the pressure ratio decreased. This result helps predict the capacity of the wingwalls in abutment design and the amount of allowable wall deflection before pullout of the backfill reinforcement occurs. Three methods were used to model the measured passive force-displacement curves of each test. Overall, the computed curves were in good agreement with the measured curves. However, the triaxial soil friction angle needed to be increased to the plane strain friction angle to accurately model both the loose and dense sand MSE and slip plane wall confined tests. The plane strain friction angle was found to be between 9 to 17% greater than the triaxial friction angle.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





passive force, MSE walls, abutments, pile caps, lateral resistance