Finite element modeling of twin steel box-girder bridges for redundancy evaluation



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Bridge redundancy can be described as the capacity that a bridge has to continue carrying loads after suffering the failure of one or more main structural components without undergoing significant deformations. In the current AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specification, two-girder bridges are classified as fracture critical, which implies that these bridges are not inherently redundant. Therefore, two-girder bridges require more frequent and detailed inspections than other types of bridges, resulting in greater costs for their operation. Despite the fracture-critical classification of two-girder bridges, several historical events involving the failure of main load-carrying members in two-girder bridges constructed of steel plate girders have demonstrated their ability to have significant reserve load carrying capacity. Relative to the steel plate girder bridges, steel box-girder bridges have higher torsional stiffness and more structural elements that might contribute to load redistribution in the event of a fracture of one or more bridge main members. These observations initiated questions on the inherent redundancy that twin box-girder bridges might possess. Given the high costs associated with the maintenance and the inspection of these bridges, there is interest in accurately characterizing the redundancy of bridge systems. In this study, twin steel box-girder bridges, which have become popular in recent years due to their aesthetics and high torsional resistance, were investigated to characterize and to define redundancy sources that could exist in this type of bridge. For this purpose, detailed finite element bridge models were developed with various modeling techniques to capture critical aspects of response of bridges suffering severe levels of damage. The finite element models included inelastic material behavior and nonlinear geometry, and they also accounted for the complex interaction of the shear studs with the concrete deck under progressing levels of damage. In conjunction with the computational analysis approach, three full-scale bridge fracture tests were carried out during this research project, and data collected from these tests were utilized to validate the results obtained from the finite element models.