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The Schoharie Creek Bridge collapsed on the morning of April 5, 1987 after three decades of service. The collapse of pier three ca sed t!o spans to fall into the flooded creek. "ive vehicles fell into the river, and ten occ pants died. Bridges across !ater!a#s m st $e designed str ct rall# not onl# to carr# their o!n !eight and traffic loads, $ t also to resist the h#dra lic forces imposed $# rivers and other $odies of !ater. %oreover, the constr ction of the $ridge a$ tments and piers alters the river&s flo!, and ma# lead to ne! patterns of erosion and deposition. The collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge ill strates the importance of designing $ridge piers to resist sco r. The case also ill strates the importance of the inspection and maintenance of $ridges. The Schoharie Creek Bridge !as one of several $ridges constr cted $# the 'e! (ork State Thr !a# A thorit# )'(STA* for a 9++ km )559,mile* s perhigh!a# across 'e! (ork State in the earl# 195+&s. The $ridge !as sit ated north!est of Al$an# in the %oha!k -alle# )./0 Associates, 1987*. The 1919 edition of the American Association of State 2igh!a# 3fficials )AAS23 4 no! the American Association of State 2igh!a# and Transportation 3fficials, AAS2T3* 5Standard Specifications for 2igh!a# Bridges6 !as sed for the design of the Schoharie Creek Bridge. The preliminar# design for the $ridge !as contracted o t to %adigan,2#land Cons lting 0ngineers )./0 Associates, 1987*. The design firm developed t!o designs for the crossing of the Schoharie creek. The preliminar# designs !ere similar e7cept for the lengths of spans, one 188 meters )9++ feet* and the other 195 meters )51+ feet*. Both plans placed t!o piers on shallo! footings in the Schoharie Creek and t!o piers on the creek $anks to s pport the str ct re. The 'e! (ork State :epartment of ; $lic .orks ):;.*, later named the 'e! (ork State :epartment of Transportation )'(S:3T*, approved the 195 meter )51+, foot* $ridge for the crossing of the Schoharie Creek. The final design !as s $mitted in

/an ar# 195< and consisted of five simpl# s pported spans !ith nominal lengths of 8+.5, 88.5, 89.9, 88.5, and 8+.5 meters )1++, 11+, 1<+, 11+ and 1++ feet*. Concrete pier frames s pported the $ridge spans along !ith a$ tments at each end )fig re 1*. The pier frames !ere constr cted of t!o slightl# tapered col mns and tie $eams. The col mns !ere fi7ed !ithin a lightl# reinforced plinth, !hich !as positioned on a shallo! reinforced spread footing. The spread footing !as to$e protected $# a la#er of dr# riprap. The s perstr ct re !as made p of t!o longit dinal main girders !ith transverse floor $eams. The skeleton of the <++ mm )eight,inch* thick $ridge deck !as comprised of steel stringers )./0 Associates, 1987*.

The constr ction contract for the $ridge !as a!arded to B. ;erini and Sons, =nc. on "e$r ar# 11, 1958, and constr ction $egan shortl# thereafter. %adigan,2#land cons lting 0ngineers performed constr ction inspection for the $ridge in con> nction !ith :;.. The ma>orit# of the constr ction !as completed and the $ridge !as opened to partial traffic d ring the s mmer of 1951. The Schoharie Creek Bridge !as f ll# completed soon after 3cto$er of 1951 )./0 Associates, 1987*. 'earl# a #ear later, the $ridge s ccessf ll# s rvived a 1++ #ear flood, $ t the damage from the 3cto$er 19, 1955 flood ma# have had a $earing on the collapse three decades later )'TSB, 1988*. The as, $ ilt plans did not reflect the tr e condition of the $ridge. The# sho!ed that sheet piling had $een left in place to protect the piers. 2o!ever, it had $een removed after constr ction )./0 Associates, 1987, 'TSB, 1988*.

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Shortl# after constr ction !as completed, in the spring and s mmer of 1955, the Schoharie Creek Bridge pier plinths )sho!n in fig re 1* $egan to form vertical cracks. The cracks ranged from 8 to 5 mm )1@8 to 8@19 inches* in !idth and the locations of the


cracks varied from pier to pier )./0 Associates, 1987*. The cracks occ rred d e to the high tensile stresses in the concrete plinth. The plinth co ld not resist the $ending stresses $et!een the t!o col mns. The original designs called for reinforcement to $e placed in the $ottom portion of the plinth onl# since designers had confidence that the concrete in tension co ld resist the $ending stresses !itho t reinforcement. =t !as later determined that the pper portion of the pier plinths had a tensile stress of 1.1 %;a )<++ psi* and there sho ld have $een more than 89,+++ sA are mm 5 p!ards of 9+ sA are inches of steel in the pper face6 of the plinth )./0 Associates, 1987*. =n 1957, plinth reinforcement !as added to each of the fo r piers to correct the pro$lem of vertical cracking. The plinth ma# $e seen as an pside do!n niforml# loaded $eam, !ith the soil $earing press re providing the niform loading and the t!o col mns acting as s pports. =t $ecomes o$vio s that the top of the plinth represents the tension face of the $eam and reA ires reinforcement. 2o!ever, to $e properl# anchored the tension reinforcement m st $e e7tended past the s pports 4 in this case, into the col mns )'TSB, 1988*. 3$vio sl#, this !as not done, and it !o ld have $een diffic lt to e7tend the reinforcement thro gh the col mns !itho t replacing the col mns. =ronicall#, $eca se the added plinth reinforcement !as not adeA atel# anchored, it ma# have contri$ ted to the $rittle and s dden nat re of the s $seA ent collapse, $# s pporting the plinth ntil most of it had $een ndermined )./0 Associates, 1987, Thornton,Tomasetti, ;. C., 1987*. There !ere several other pro$lems that occ rred shortl# after the completion of the $ridge. =nspectors noticed that the e7pansion $earings !ere o t,of,pl m$, road!a# approach sla$s had settled, road!a# drainage !as poor, and the s pporting material for !est em$ankment dr# stone pavement !as deficient. All of the pro$lems mentioned and other minor pro$lems !ere corrected $# fall of 1957 )./0 Associates, 1987*.

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The Schoharie Creek Bridge collapsed on the morning of April 5, 1987 d ring the spring flood )Boorstin, 1987, Thornton et al., 1988*. ?ainfall totaling 15+ mm )9 inches* com$ined !ith sno!melt to prod ce an estimated 5+ #ear flood )./0 Associates, 1987*. The collapse !as initiated $# the toppling of pier three, !hich ca sed the progressive collapse of spans three and fo r into the flooded creek. The piers and spans are sho!n in "ig re <. 3ne car and one tractor,semi trailer !ere on the $ridge !hen it collapsed. Before the road co ld $e $locked off, three more cars fell into the gap. The drivers of the other vehicles !ere pro$a$l# too close to the $ridge to stop in time !hen it fell. 3ver the ne7t three !eeks, nine $odies !ere recovered. 3ne !as never fo nd. )'TSB, 1988*. ;ier t!o and span t!o fell ninet# min tes after span three dropped, and pier one and span one shifted t!o ho rs after that )Thornton,Tomasetti, ;. C., 1987*. The 'TSB s ggested that pier t!o collapsed $eca se the !reckage of pier three and the t!o spans partiall# $locked the river, redirecting the !ater to pier t!o and increasing the stream velocit# )'TSB, 1988*. Si7 da#s later, a large section of the %ill ;oint Bridge located a$o t 5 km )8 miles* pstream of the Schoharie Creek Bridge collapsed. "ort natel#, the $ridge had $een closed since the flood $eca se '(S:3T feared that its fo ndation had also $een eroded )./0 Associates, 1987*.

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T!o teams investigated the Schoharie Creek Bridge fail re 4 .iss, /anne#, 0lstner )./0* Associates, =nc. !ith % eser ? tledge Cons lting 0ngineers investigated for the '(STA, and Thornton,Tomasetti, ;.C. investigated for the 'e! (ork State :isaster ;reparedness Commission. The teams cooperated, and the chief role of Thornton,Tomasetti, ;.C. !as to revie! ./0&s !ork. A n m$er of other firms assisted

in the investigation )Bridge Collapse D <++<, Schoharie Creek Thr !a# Bridge D <++<*. A cofferdam !as constr cted aro nd the failed piers and the site !as de!atered and e7cavated, $oth to aid the investigation and the constr ction of the replacement $ridge )./0 Associates, 1987*. 0ach of the teams prepared a report as to the ca se of the fail re, and the# similarl# concl ded that the collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge !as d e to the e7tensive sco r nder pier three. Sco r is defined as 5the removal of sediment from a stream$ed ca sed $# erosive action of flo!ing !ater6 );almer and T rki##ah, 1999*. The v lnera$ilit# of sco ring nder pier three !as affected $# fo r important factors )Thornton,Tomasetti, ;. C., 1987*. The shallow footings used, bearing on soil, could be undermined. Therefore the depth of !hich the footings !as not eno gh to take them $elo! the pro$a$le limit of sco r. The fo ndation of pier 8 !as $earing on eroda$le soil. Layers of gravel, sand and silt, inter bedded with folded and tilted till, allowed high velocity floodwaters to penetrate the bearing stratum. . The as-built footing excavations and backfill could not resist scour. The area left aro nd the footing d e to e7cavation !as $ackfilled !ith eroda$le soil and topped off !ith dr# riprap, 5rather than $eing $ackfilled !ith riprap stone6 to the entire depth of the e7cavation as design plans specified . iprap protection, inspection and maintenance were inade!uate. The process of sco ring nder the piers $egan shortl# after the $ridge !as $ ilt. =n 1955, the $ridge footings e7perienced flood!ater flo!s nanticipated in the design of the $ridge, a 1++,#ear flood, and it is $elieved that the ma>orit# of the sco ring energ# !as dissipated into moving the original riprap la#er from aro nd the footings. 3nce the $ackfill had $een e7posed, the #ears of peak flo!s removed the $ackfill material, and the $ackfill material in t rn !as replaced $# sediment settling into the sco red holes )./0 Associates, 1987*. The 1955 flood had an estimated flo! of <.17 million liters per second )79,5++ cfs*. The 1987 flood had an estimated flo! of 1.8 million liters per second )98,+++ cfs* and an estimated velocit# of 1.9 meters per

second )15 fps*. 2o!ever, after the 1955 flood, $erms !ere constr cted pstream, and the velocit# at the $ridge ma# have $een the same as the 1955 flood. " rthermore, the riprap placed at constr ction had pro$a$l# $een !ashed a!a# d ring the 1955 flood, and had not $een replaced )./0 Associates, 1987*. This process contin ed ntil so m ch material !as removed that there !as a loss of s pport capacit# )Shepherd and "rost, 1995*. The pstream end of pier 8 fell into a sco r hole appro7imatel# 8 meters )9 feet* deep )'TSB, 1988*. =t !as estimated that appro7imatel# 7.5 to 9 meters )<5 to 8+ feet* of the pier !as Associates, 1987*. Altho gh the main ca se of the $ridge fail re !as sco r, there !ere several other items considered d ring the investigation of the collapse. These items incl de the design of the s perstr ct re, A alit# of materials and constr ction, inspection and maintenance of s perstr ct re, inspection and maintenance of piers a$ove stream$ed, and inspections performed sing the g idelines availa$le at the time of inspections. These items did not contri$ te to the collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge )Thornton,Tomasetti, ;. C., 1987*. Thornton,Tomasetti fo nd si7 items that aggravated the tendenc# for sco r. The flood !as greater than that anticipated $# the designers, and follo!ed the 1955 flood and others that had dist r$ed the riprap. A c rve in the river pstream of the $ridge directed a higher,velocit# flo! to!ard pier 8. i. ii. iii. iv. "rift material caught against the piers directed water downward at the base of pier #. $eams built in %&'# directed floodwaters under the bridge. (n embankment west of the creek channel increased flood velocities. The )ohawk iver dam downstream was set for winter conditions and was # meters *%+ feet, lower than in the %&-- flood, increasing the hydraulic gradient. " rthermore, Thornton,Tomasetti fo nd a n m$er of other factors that contri$ ted to the severit# of the collapse )pp. 5,9, Thornton,Tomasetti, ;. C., 1987*E v. vi. The bridge bearings allowed the spans to lift or slide off of the concrete piers. The simple spans were not redundant. ndermined )./0

vii. viii. ix. x.

The lightly reinforced concrete piers did not have enough ductility to permit frame action. The plinth reinforcement stopped the hinge action of the plinth cracks. Therefore, instead of dropping slowly into the scour hole, the plinth cracked suddenly. The first two elements were common practice when the bridge was designed in the %&-+.s. The /ational Transportation 0afety $oard conducted its own investigation and concluded that the probable cause of the accident was failure to maintain riprap. (s contributing factors, they pointed to ambiguous construction plans and specifications, an inade!uate /10T( bridge inspection program, and inade!uate oversight by the /10"2T and 345( */T0$, %&66,.

The ./0 Associates report notes that $ridges m st $e designed for h#dra lic, geotechnical, and str ct ral effects. 3f the three, onl# the geotechnical design, rel#ing on the s pport strength of the glacial till, !as satisfactor# )./0 Associates, 1987*.Bridge inspections pla# a ma>or role in eval ating the s perstr ct re and s $str ct re for deterioration to determine if maintenance is reA ired. Bridge inspections in 'e! (ork State !ere reA ired on an ann al@$iann al $asis. The state also reA ired diver inspections of the nder!ater str ct res ever# five #ears )Bev# and Salvadori, 199<*. Altho gh the Schoharie Creek Bridge had $een inspected ann all# or $ienniall# since 1998, an nder!ater inspection of the piers footings had never $een performed. The $ridge !as sched led for an nder!ater inspection in 1987, $ t the $ridge collapsed $efore the inspection took place )'TSB, 1988*. The Thornton,Tomasetti report notes 5!here riprap is sed to prevent sco r, inspection and restoration of protective riprap sho ld $e performed after ever# significant flood to avoid F progressive damage, and the replacement stones sed sho ld $e heavier than those !hich !ere o$served to shift.6 )p. <+, Thornton,Tomasetti, 1987*.: e to the collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge and other $ridges failing in a similar manner, $ridge inspectors !ere f rther trained to

recogniGe sco r potential $# e7amining and comparing an# changes in the conditions from previo s inspections )2 $er, 1991*. Sco ring fail res also sparked the m ch, needed research for detecting sco r potential. The Catalog and 07pert 0val ation of Sco r ?isk and ?iver Sta$ilit# )CA0SA?* s#stem !as developed $# the Cniversit# of .ashington for eval ating sco r thro gh comp ter technolog# and for aiding $ridge inspectors d ring the assessment process. The report doc menting the program disc sses the necessit# of identif#ing 5screamers,6 those indicators of imminent collapse that reA ire an agenc# to close a $ridge );almer and T rki##ah, 1999*.

The $ridge fail res of the past demonstrate ho! important $ridge inspection is for management and safet# of the transportation net!ork. The fail res also emphasiGe ho! important it is to design footings deep eno gh to avoid loss of s pport capacit# d e to sco r )Shepherd, 1995*.


.hen the $ridge !as $ ilt, the tools of the da# !ere not adeA ate for predicting sco r. .hile the $ridge !as in service, the inspection proced res sed !ere not s fficient to detect the sco r. Since the collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge, important advances have $een made. A st d# cond cted in 1989 revealed that 191 $ridges failed d ring the #ears 1951 and 1988 as a res lt of h#dra lic conditions, primaril# d e to sco ring )2 $er, 1991*.

The collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge !as an important event in the development of $ridge design and inspection proced res. =t is important to acc ratel# predict the effects of sco r, and to design $ridges to resist those effects. Bessons learned incl deE a. 7roper selection of a critical storm for the design of bridges crossing water.

b. The need for regular inspections of the superstructure, substructure, and underwater features of the bridge. c. The importance of ade!uate erosion protection around piers and abutments susceptible to scour.