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Quake Lab Performs Biggest Bridge Test Yet

Monday, September 25, 2017

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Engineers based out of the University of Nevada, Reno recently tested the damage a bridge could sustain by replicating a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in the lab in the largest-scale experiment of its kind to ever be performed.

Basing the motions in the experiment on the 1994 earthquake that occurred in Northridge, California, engineers tested the resiliency of the two-span, 100-ton, 70-foot-long bridge, which was set on five shake tables and made from ultra-high-performance concrete.

Earthquake Testing

The goal of these experiments is to assist in creating methods to build bridges faster than the current norm—the practice known as accelerated bridge construction, or ABCwhile also ensuring safety.

“Specifically, the objective of the study is to design two large-scale bridge models incorporating some of the most promising ABC connections and components and test these under bidirectional earthquakes on massive shake tables to assess the performance of various components and connections and the interaction among them,” Saiid Saiidi, principal investigator of the project, said.

University of Nevada, Reno

Basing the motions in the experiment on the 1994 earthquake that occurred in Northridge, California, engineers tested the resiliency of the two-span, 100-ton, 70-foot long bridge, which was set on five shake tables and made from ultra-high-performance concrete.

This specific study utilizes precast components and connections, and investigates the seismic response, which may eventually allow for an increase in accelerated bridge construction, as well as the development of seismic design guidelines for ABC bridges.

The Experiment

Bridge decks, connections and columns were all built outside the lab, and assembled like an erector on top of the three hydraulically driven shake tables, with each measuring 14 feet by 14 feet and programmed to replicate the effects of an earthquake.

Even though the individual connections had been tested and based on Saiidi’s previous research, the elements had never before been combined into a realistic bridge.

“The good seismic performance of a component does not guarantee that the entire bridge will resist the earthquake,” Saiidi said. “That’s why this test was necessary.”

The five connection types used in the study were ultra-high-performance concrete deck joints, steel pipe pins, grouted ducts, high-strength grout pocket deck-girder connections and ultra-high-performance concrete deck cap beam connections. Over 400 sensors were also installed to document the results.

“This is a big step in getting these techniques and materials adopted by public agencies for use in the communities,” Saiidi said. “The experiment, with the largest motions at 200 percent of the design earthquake, was a success, showing the components performed well. Of course, we have to analyze the huge amounts of data collected through our sensor network to quantify the results.”

The study was funded by the California Department of Transportation.

Saiidi was the founder of the American Concrete Institute’s Committee on Earthquake Resistant Concrete Bridges, and his work on concrete bridges and seismicity led to the construction last year of the so-called "earthquake-proof" bridge that was built as part of Seattle's SR-99 replacement project.

   

Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Bridges; Engineers; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development

Comment from Ron Truman, (9/25/2017, 10:24 PM)

Just curious, but are concrete girders the only ones being tested. I would think that a comparison to steel bridge girders would be the only real comparison??


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