A study of stiffness of steel bridge cross frames



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Cross frames are critical components in steel bridge systems. Cross frames brace girders against lateral torsional buckling and assist in distributing live loads to girders during the service life of the bridge. In curved bridges, cross frames also serve as primary structural members in resisting torsion generated by the traffic loads. The conventional cross frames are often constructed in X- or K- type shapes with steel angle sections. However, the actual stiffness of these cross frames are not well understood or quantified, leading to potentially inaccurate prediction of bridge behavior and safety during construction and in service.
Previous studies have shown the possibility of employing new sections, such as tubular members and double angles, in cross frame designs. In addition, a type-Z cross frame, or single diagonal cross frame was also found to be a potential use to simplify the design. However, the effectiveness of these innovative cross frame types has not been completely examined. And these new cross frames have yet compared with the conventional ones in terms of their stiffness and strength capacity. This dissertation documents the results of a study on the stiffness of various types of cross frame systems. Full size cross frames were tested to establish actual stiffness of the cross frames specimens. The tests results revealed a significant discrepancy between the actual measured stiffness and the stiffness calculated using methods commonly employed by bridge designers. The research showed that the major source of this discrepancy was eccentricity in the connection. The stiffness reduction was quantified by employing analytical derivation and finite element modeling. As a result, methods were developed to account for the stiffness reduction.