Soils are naturally occurring materials that carry loads of civil engineering structures including roads and buildings. However, not all natural soils are suitable for such uses due to limited strength and instability under varying environmental conditions. A lack of adequate geotechnical investigations and soil characterization can result in the over-design of foundations, unexpected excavations to remove unsuitable soils, cost overruns, construction delays; and, contract disputes. In this research, an experimental plan was executed to determine the engineering properties of subgrade soil in Jimma Town in southwestern Ethiopia by using both disturbed and undisturbed soil samples. The plan included tests to determine the moisture content, specific gravity, grain-size analysis, Atterberg limits, compaction-density relationship, California Bearing Ratio (CBR), unconfined compression strength, and triaxial shear strength. X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis was also conducted to determine the chemical composition of the soil. The soil characterization indicated that soft clay is the predominant subgrade soil type and that it has a very low load-bearing capacity, high plasticity, low strength and, high compressibility, which makes the soil unsuitable to serve as a highway subgrade without the help of soil improvement techniques.
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