Report No.: CCEER-11-2

Title: Preliminary Seismic Analysis and Design of Reinforced Concrete Bridge Columns for Curved Bridge Experiments

Authors: Harrison, N. and Sanders, D.

Date: May 2011

Sponsoring Agency: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

Performing Organization:
Department of Civil Engineering/258
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557


As part of a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sponsored research project to study highway system resilience, a 40 percent scale curved steel plate girder bridge is to be constructed and subjected to earthquake simulation at the Large Scale Structures Laboratory on the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) campus. The 145 foot long bridge model is to have three-spans, supported on two single-column bents with hammer-head pier caps, and have a subtended angle of 104°. The purpose of the shake table testing is to study the seismic system behavior of the bridge as well as additional bridge components including; conventional columns, isolation, ductile-cross frames, abutment behavior, and the seismic behavior of bridges including the effects of live load. Ultimately design recommendations will be developed from this research.

The research presented in this document is the results of preliminary analysis and design of conventional reinforced concrete bridge columns and substructure elements as part of the larger project to examine global seismic behavior of the scaled bridge model. In order to prepare for seismic testing of the scaled bridge model, extensive pre-experimental numerical analysis was performed. Finite element models were developed using SAP2000 and non-linear time-history analysis was performed to investigate the seismic response of the bridge model. Analytical bridge models were analyzed using both 16-inch and 20-inch column diameters and various abutment support conditions.

The models were subjected to two levels of horizontal bidirectional earthquake excitation representing a design level earthquake and a large amplitude earthquake intended to cause column failure. Using the results from the analysis, preliminary construction plans were prepared for one set of columns and the adjacent substructure components using the provisions from the AASHTO Guide Specifications for LRFD Seismic Bridge Design. In addition to the investigation into column performance, a parametric study was performed to determine axial response of the bearings at both the abutments and piers when subjected to seismic loading.

The numerical analysis showed that system effects due to superstructure-substructure interaction can cause column flexural response that is typically not observed with stand-alone column tests. The effects of bridge horizontal curvature was shown to have a significant impact on the axial performance of the bearings in which the response was not uniform for all bearing at one support location. As a component of the analysis and design, two strut-and-tie models were developed to provide adequate joint detailing in order to ensure capacity protection of the column-to-bentcap connection under multiple cycles of seismic loading.