A History of Geosynthetics Use on Forest Road by Gordon Keller was presented at GeoAmericas 2016 (10 – 13 April 2016, Miami).
Geosynthetics have been used in a wide range of applications on forest roads over the past 40 years. Some of the
earliest uses involved reinforcement in simple walls, drainage/filtration in geocomposite underdrains, and subgrade
stabilization. Over time geosynthetic use became defined by function. Road uses were typically in underdrains to keep a
granular filter material clean, for separation over soft subgrade soils to keep aggregate from becoming contaminated, as
reinforcement layers within a mechanically stabilized earth retaining wall or reinforced fill, and as interlayers within a
pavement. Today geosynthetic use is more sophisticated and better defined, where materials for each function have
specific strength and durability properties appropriate for their use. Also, new combinations of materials have been
developed, such as drainage geocomposites, multi-layer filters, geogrids with geotextiles, geofoam, geocells, and many
applications in erosion control, as well as other creative uses. However, geosynthetics are still underutilized on forest
The objectives of this paper are to document the long history of geosynthetics use on Forest Service and rural roads, to
document the many creative and useful ways geosynthetics have been used, and to promote the cost-effective uses of
geosynthetics in roads projects today, particularly on low-volume forest and rural roads.
The use of geosynthetics for engineer applications is not a new concept, for people have been trying to reinforce soils for
centuries. The first attempts were done to stabilize bogs and clay soils using trunks, bamboo, stones, straw and small
bush. The use of logs or tree limbs to form a “corduroy” to stabilize roads can be found before Christ. The concept of
reinforcing soils with low load carry capacity has been developing throughout history and continues in present times.
The first textiles were used in road construction in the United States in 1926. Woven geotextiles were used during the
sixties to control erosion and woven and non-woven geotextiles began being used in retaining wall and reinforced soil
applications, as well as underdrains, in the 1970’s.
The full paper is available via the three-volume digital proceedings set.