Cross-Sectional Elements

By Shreya Laddha|Updated : December 2nd, 2021

Through Champion Study Plan for GATE Civil Engineering (CE) 2022, we are providing Cross-Sectional Elements study notes and other important materials on every topic of each subject.

These topic-wise study notes are useful for the preparation of various upcoming exams like GATE CivilIESBARCISROSSC-JEState Engineering Services examinations and other important upcoming competitive exams.

The article contains fundamental notes on the "Cross-Sectional Elements"  topic of the "Highway Engineering" subject. 

Cross-Sectional Elements

The features of the cross-section of the pavement influence the life of the pavement as well as the riding comfort and safety. Of these, pavement surface characteristics affect both of these. Camber, kerbs, and geometry of various cross-sectional elements are important aspects to be considered in this regard.

Pavement Surface Characteristics

  • Friction - It affects the acceleration and deceleration ability of vehicles. Lack of adequate friction can cause skidding or slipping of vehicles.
    • Skidding happens when the path travelled along the road surface is more than the circumferential movement
      of the wheels due to friction.
    • Slip occurs when the wheel revolves more than the corresponding longitudinal movement along the road.

The choice of the value of f is a very complicated issue since it depends on many variables. IRC suggests the coefficient of longitudinal friction as 0.35-0.4 depending on the speed and coefficient of lateral friction as 0.15. The former is useful in sight distance calculation and the latter in horizontal curve design

  • Unevenness

It is always desirable to have an even surface, but it is seldom possible to have such a one. Even if a road is constructed with high quality pavers, it is possible to develop unevenness due to pavement failures. Unevenness affect the vehicle operating cost, speed, riding comfort, safety, fuel consumption and wear and tear of tyres.

An unevenness index value less than 1500 mm/km is considered as good, a value less than 2500 mm/km is satisfactory up to speed of 100 kmph and values greater than 3200 mm/km is considered as uncomfortable even for 55 kmph.

  • Light reflection 

White roads have good visibility at night, but caused glare during day time.

• Black roads has no glare during day, but has poor visibility at night
• Concrete roads has better visibility and less glare

It is necessary that the road surface should be visible at night and reflection of light is the factor that answers it.

  • Drainage

The pavement surface should be absolutely impermeable to prevent seepage of water into the pavement layers. Further, both the geometry and texture of pavement surface should help in draining out the water from the surface in less time.


Camber or cant is the cross slope provided to raise middle of the road surface in the transverse direction to drain off rainwater from road surface. The objectives of providing camber are:

• Surface protection especially for gravel and bituminous roads
• Sub-grade protection by proper drainage
• Quick drying of pavement which in turn increases safety

Too steep slope is undesirable for it will erode the surface. Camber is measured in 1 in n or n% (Eg. 1 in 50 or 2%) and the value depends on the type of pavement surface.

Values suggested by IRC for various categories of pavement is given in Table

  • For Camber


The common types of camber are parabolic, straight, or combination of them

Width of carriage way

Width of the carriage way or the width of the pavement depends on the width of the traffic lane and number of lanes. Width of a traffic lane depends on the width of the vehicle and the clearance. Side clearance improves operating speed and safety. The maximum permissible width of a vehicle is 2.44 and the desirable side clearance for single lane traffic is 0.68 m. This

This require minimum of lane width of 3.75 m for a single lane road. However, the side clearance required is about 0.53 m, on either side and 1.06 m in the center. Therefore, a
two lane road require minimum of 3.5 meter for each lane (Figure 12:2b).



Kerbs indicate the boundary between the carriage way and the shoulder or islands or footpaths. Different types
of kerbs are:
• Low or mountable kerbs : This type of kerbs are provided such that they encourage the traffic to remain in the through traffic lanes and also allow the driver to enter the shoulder area with little difficulty. The height of this kerb is about 10 cm above the pavement edge with a slope which allows the vehicle to climb easily. This is usually provided at medians and channelization schemes and also helps in longitudinal drainage.
• Semi-barrier type kerbs : When the pedestrian traffic is high, these kerbs are provided. Their height is 15 cm above the pavement edge. This type of kerb prevents encroachment of parking vehicles, but at acute emergency it is possible to drive over this kerb with some difficulty.
• Barrier type kerbs : They are designed to discourage vehicles from leaving the pavement. They are provided when there is considerable amount of pedestrian traffic. They are placed at a height of 20 cm above the pavement edge with a steep batter.


  • Submerged kerbs : They are used in rural roads. The kerbs are provided at pavement edges between the pavement edge and shoulders. They provide lateral confinement and stability to the pavement.

Road margins

The portion of the road beyond the carriageway and on the roadway can be generally called road margin. Various elements that form the road margins are given below:

  • Shoulders

Shoulders are provided along the road edge and is intended for the accommodation of stopped vehicles, serve as an emergency lane for vehicles and provide lateral support for base and surface courses.

The shoulder width should be adequate for giving working space around a stopped vehicle. It is desirable to have a width of 4.6 m for the shoulders. A minimum width of 2.5 m is recommended for 2-lane rural highways in India.

  • Parking lanes

Parking lanes are provided in urban lanes for side parking. Parallel parking is preferred because it is safe for the vehicles moving on the road. The parking lane should have a minimum of 3.0 m width in the case of parallel parking.

  • Bus-bays

They should be at least 75 meters away from the intersection so that the traffic near the intersections is not affected by the bus-bay.

  • Service roads

These roads are provided to avoid congestion in the expressways and also the speed of the traffic in those lanes is not reduced.

  • Footpath

Footpaths are exclusive right of way to pedestrians, especially in urban areas. They are provided for the safety of the pedestrians when both the pedestrian traffic and vehicular traffic is high. Minimum width is 1.5 meter and may be increased based on the traffic.

  • Guard rails

Guard stones painted in alternate black and white are usually used. They also give better visibility of curves at night under headlights of vehicles.

Width of formation

Width of formation or roadway width is the sum of the widths of pavements or carriage way including separators and shoulders. This does not include the extra land in formation/cutting.


Right of way

Right of way (ROW) or land width is the width of land acquired for the road, along its alignment. It should be adequate to accommodate all the cross-sectional elements of the highway and may reasonably provide for future development. 

Building line represents a line on either side of the road, between which and the road no building activity is permitted at all. The right of way width is governed by:

Width of formation: It depends on the category of the highway and width of roadway and road margins.

• Height of embankment or depth of cutting: It is governed by the topography and the vertical alignment.
• Side slopes of embankment or cutting: It depends on the height of the slope, soil type etc.
• Drainage system and their size which depends on rainfall, topography etc.
• Sight distance considerations : On curves etc. there is restriction to the visibility on the inner side of the curve due to the presence of some obstructions like building structures etc.
• Reserve land for future widening: Some land has to be acquired in advance anticipating future developments like widening of the road.




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