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Experimental and Analytical Investigation of Seismic Bridge-Abutment Interaction in a Curved Highway Bridge
AuthorWieser, Joseph Daniel
Civil and Environmental Engineering
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Seat-type bridge abutments are most commonly used to support the end spans of curved highway bridges. This type of abutment is often selected to eliminate unbalanced stresses in the superstructure under service loads, in particular thermal expansion and contraction. However, depending on the width of the expansion gap, large earthquakes may cause the expansion gap to close which results in bridge-abutment interaction. This phenomenon was studied in a federally-funded research project examining the seismic performance of curved highway bridges at the University of Nevada, Reno. As a part of this research a 2/5th scale model of a 3-span curved steel girder bridge was constructed on four multi-degree-of-freedom shake tables. Two configurations of the bridge one without bridge-abutment interaction and one with nonlinear bridge-abutment interaction were tested. The purpose of these tests was to: (i) identify the influence of bridge-abutment interaction on the global seismic response of the bridge, (ii) characterize the force-deformation characteristics of dynamic bridge-abutment interaction, and (iii) provide experimental data used to calibrate numerical models of bridges including bridge abutment interaction. Based on the experimental investigation it was concluded that bridge-abutment interaction shortens the effective period of vibration of the bridge, which results in decreased deck displacement and increased total base shear demands. However, the increase in base shear demand is resisted by the abutments which results in a net reduction in column shear demand. Though the deck displacement is reduced at the mid-span of the bridge, the active displacement of the deck at the abutments is increased due to the increased in-plane deck rotation generated as a result of the sudden changes in eccentricity between the center of mass and center of stiffness. The amount of in-plane rotation is shown to depend on the phasing and intensity of the ground motion. Interaction between the bridge and abutment backwall can generate significant radial shear forces through contact friction. These radial forces limit the radial displacement of the bridge while in contact with the backwall particularly after the radial shear keys have failed. However, depending on the details of the abutment backwall local damage may occur. In general, engaging the passive resistance of the backfill soil was able to improve the seismic response of the bridge by reducing damage to the columns and adding an additional form of energy dissipation. Both rigorous 3D finite element and simplified grillage models of the experimental model were validated using available software. Good agreement between the numerical models and the experimental data were obtained using both models however the computational effort was greatly reduced using the simplified grillage model. A grossly simplified 3DOF model of the bridge analyzed using the linear multi-modal response spectrum method was shown to give a prediction of the peak displacement response with minimal complexity. Finally, a parameter study determined that the degree of curvature, size of expansion gap, column diameter, and abutment backfill soil type all influence the response of the bridge. Based on the small scale parameter study conducted herein, bridge designers are encouraged to optimize the combination of expansion gap width with the selection of column diameter to minimize the column and/or abutment soil ductility demands.