Many analytical methods and other processes have been developed for the evaluation of railway track and its components, but these have largely been used for analysis. Design is often driven by development projects that do not engage research, resulting in designs that may not be optimized in the context of the broader track structure. This paper proposes a mechanistic-empirical (M-E) analysis and design framework that encourages an understanding of mechanical load-response behavior and comparison of loading demands, and the capacity of the track infrastructure component under study. The approach builds on similar advancements in the field of highway pavement research, including the development and use of the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide (MEPDG). Rail applications present unique economies to a focused M-E design approach, given that loads are concentrated in localized regions and beneath the rails. This paper first reviews prior design and analysis approaches, then presents the essential features of an M-E railway track system and component analysis and design, and, in the end, notes gaps that will require future research before proper implementation of M-E design within rail engineering. The authors also discuss the role of probabilistic design and structural reliability analysis in future design practices. Finally, governing mechanistic failure modes for the track system as well as components and associated life cycle data to achieve full implementation of such an M-E design process are identified and a path forward for implementation is proposed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Civil and Structural Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering