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Analytical Investigation of Potential Seismic

Damage to a Skewed Bridge


Piboon Apirakvorapinit1; Jamshid Mohammadi, M.ASCE2; and Jay Shen3
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Abstract: Investigative reports on the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California indicated significant damage experienced by skewed
highway bridges. Specifically, the damage sustained by the Pico-Lyons Bridge near Newhall, California, was noted to have been triggered
by the skewed geometry of the bridge. In an effort to portray the behavior of this bridge analytically, a series of simulation studies was
conducted using nonlinear finite-element analyses. The objective was to demonstrate that certain damage potentials in skewed bridges during
earthquakes can be captured analytically. Dynamic time history and pushover analyses were used to capture the behavior of the superstructure
of the skewed bridge using the Northridge ground motion record as the input seismic force. Results from the simulation studies showed that
potential damage areas, comparable to those reported in the field investigation of the Pico-Lyons Bridge, can be portrayed through analytical
modeling. The study also provided the percentage increase in critical stresses in the superstructure of skewed bridges as the angle of
skew increases compared with a comparable nonskewed bridge. The study showed that cases in which the angle of skew is approximately
40°, the percentage increase in stress due to the skewness effect at the end girders can be as high as 50–60%. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)SC.1943-
5576.0000094. © 2012 American Society of Civil Engineers.
CE Database subject headings: Skew bridges; Dynamic analysis; Earthquakes; Ground motion; Acceleration; Damage; Energy
dissipation.
Author keywords: Bridges; Skew; Dynamic analysis; Earthquakes; Ground motion; Acceleration; Damage; Energy dissipation.

Introduction to conduct detailed analyses in an effort to portray the actual


behavior of such bridges during earthquakes.
Seismic behavior of a bridge depends on material properties, bridge The purpose of this paper is to examine the damage that oc-
geometry, support conditions, seismic load directions, and soil con- curred to the Pico-Lyons Bridge after the 1994 earthquake to draw
ditions. These factors, combined with an irregular geometry, which conclusions on the seismic damage potential of skewed bridges. A
is inherent in skewed bridges, may further affect bridge perfor- series of simulation analyses, using a nonlinear finite-element
mance during an earthquake. After the 1994 Northridge earth- method, was then performed to further investigate damage in
quake, the damage investigation of highway bridges reported by skewed bridges and the dependence of such damage to several key
Astaneh-Asl et al. (1994) provided an overview of potential dam- bridge parameters, such as the angle of skew. The findings of this
age areas as observed in the field investigation of the Pico-Lyons study, along with recommendations geared specifically to skewed
skewed bridge located near Newhall, California. bridges that may be helpful in design, are summarized and provided
The field report showed that four roller supports at the abutment in this paper.
moved in the transverse direction approximately 2 in. (51 mm)
each. In the longitudinal direction, it appeared that a minor pound-
ing damage at abutments from the deck slab occurred. However, the Description of the Pico-Lyons Bridge
piers of the bridge did not appear to have suffered any major dam-
age. As is evident from field data, the bridge geometry, the angle of The Pico-Lyons Bridge, number 53-1783 as designated by the
skewness, and the existence of horizontal curves may trigger un- California Department of Transportation, was selected for this
expected structural behavior of a bridge during an earthquake. As study. This bridge is located near Newhall, which is northwest
more data on the performance of bridges with skewed geometry of Los Angeles. The bridge has a 97 m (318 ft) span length and
become available, there will be more opportunities for engineers 33 m (108 ft) width. It is skewed by 39.5° (Fig. 1). The superstruc-
ture is made up of eight steel plate girders and a reinforced concrete
1
Engineer, AON Insurance, 200 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601. deck that acts compositely with the girders. Each steel plate girder
2
Professor and Chairman, Dept. of Civil, Architectural, and Environ- has two continuous spans. They are supported by four single-
mental Engineering, 3201 S. Dearborn St., Illinois Institute of Technology, column-type reinforced piers. Each pier supports two plate girders.
Chicago, IL 60616 (corresponding author). E-mail: mohammadi@iit.edu There are two typical bearings used for this eight-girder bridge,
3
Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental with four girders supported by roller bearings (Fig. 2) and the other
Engineering, 3201 S. Dearborn St., Illinois Institute of Technology, four girders supported by typical elastomeric bearings at abutments
Chicago, IL 60616. and the pier (Fig. 3). The bearings are oriented along the directions
Note. This manuscript was submitted on March 11, 2010; approved on
of the girders at the abutment and the pier. Fig. 4 shows the ori-
January 17, 2011; published online on January 18, 2011. Discussion period
open until July 1, 2012; separate discussions must be submitted for indi- entation of the bearing at the pier. The intermediate diaphragms
vidual papers. This paper is part of the Practice Periodical on Structural are perpendicular to the alignment of the girders except for the
Design and Construction, Vol. 17, No. 1, February 1, 2012. ©ASCE, ISSN end diaphragms, which are skewed, are shown in Fig. 5(c).
1084-0680/2012/1-5–12/$25.00. Fig. 5(c) also shows how the diaphragms are connected to steel

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Fig. 1. Schematic elevation view of Pico-Lyons Bridge
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The original design of this bridge used the AASHTO (1961)


specifications and the bridge planning and design manual of
the California Department of Transportation (Astaneh-Asl et al.
1994). The truck design load H20-S16-44 was used in the design
of the bridge. The steel material is A36 steel. For the bearing sys-
tem, a high-strength steel with a yield capacity of approximately
621 MPa (90 ksi) for plates and 483 MPa (70 ksi) for rollers
was used. The concrete is reinforced with steel bars of 138 MPa
(20 ksi) allowable stress. The concrete used for the deck is of class
A, with f 0 ¼ 21 MPa (3,000 psi). The allowable soil bearing pres-
sure was 239 KN=m2 (2:5 tons=ft2 ) for one abutment and
144 KN=m2 (1:5 tons=ft2 ) for bents and the other abutment.
The concrete abutment wall is reinforced horizontally and ver-
tically by steel bars. The foundation of the wall is 3.0 m (10 ft) wide
and 4.6 m (15 ft) deep, reinforced on both sides, top and bottom. A
continuous 30 cm (12 in.) shear key is attached to the bottom of the
footing to prevent sliding. A 3:7 × 4:9 m (12 ft × 16 ft) isolated
foundation is used to support each pier.

The Finite-Element Model

The three-dimensional finite-element model for the superstructure


of the bridge geometry was built by the mesh generation program
Hypermesh (2000). Boundary conditions, which represent the abut-
ment, used pin supports, and the other abutment and pier were
modeled as roller supports that move freely in the longitudinal
direction. The gusset plates were not considered in this bridge
model. The bent model and the abutment model were also not
included in the study.
The nonlinear program Abaqus (2002) was used for the analy-
Fig. 2. Details of bearing at abutments and bents sis. The deck, bottom flange, top flange, stiffener, and web were
then modeled by using the Abaqus shell element, S4. The element
plate girders throughout the bridge in general and at the S4 has the ability to model bending, membrane, and buckling
abutments and piers in particular. The bearing stiffeners consist behavior. The deck and girders are tied up with struts modeled with
of 1 × 12 in: steel plates on both sides of the girder web and are the Abaqus beam element, B21. These struts represent the bridge
diaphragms and are connected directly to the corner node of the
not used to connect diaphragms either at the abutment end or at the
shell elements, which represent the web of the girder. Notice that
pier. Instead, gusset plates, positioned away from the bearing stiff-
the end diaphragms are not skewed since, for this particular bridge,
eners, are used to connect the end diaphragms. The b=t ratio of the
the end diaphragms are connected to the skewed gusset plate,
bearing stiffener is 12. Note that the maximum b=t ratio was 95=F y
which is close to the end stiffeners.
(=15.8) at the time the bridge was designed. With the fourth edition The superstructure model was then analyzed. This consisted of
of the LRFD bridge design pspecifications
ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi (2007), this maximum the time history, pushover, and frequency analyses, with consider-
ratio is now equal to 0:48 E=F y (=13.6), where F y is the mini- ations for the material and geometrical nonlinearity. The implicit
mum yield stress of the stiffener, equal to 248 MPa (36 ksi) for direct integration method was used to perform the dynamic analy-
A36 steel used in this bridge. ses. The superstructure model is shown in Fig. 6. Table 1 summa-
The slenderness ratio, KL=r, of the bracing members of the end rizes the types of finite elements used in the model.
and intermediate diaphragms is 106 and 130, respectively. The de- Input data for the analysis consisted of the acceleration ground
sign specifications (the 2007 AASHTO Bridge LRFD Specifica- motion from the Newhall, Los Angeles County, fire station (see
tions) require that KL=r of bracing members subject to Fig. 7). The ground motion is applied in the transverse direction
alternating tension and compression forces shall be less than 140. to each support element of the bridge.

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Fig. 3. Girder layout of Pico-Lyons Bridge

Fig. 4. Bearing orientations along the girder alignment for (a) skewed and (b) nonskewed bridge at the pier

The simulation analyses were conducted for two bridge exam- girders. This finding is consistent with the field report by
ples. One is a skewed bridge with a 40° skew angle, while the other Astaneh-Asl et al. (1994), in which the bottom flange of the plate
is a straight “nonskewed” bridge (used as a reference). The results girder end was mentioned to have suffered heavy damage. In fact,
from the nonskewed bridge model were used as baseline values for this is the only noticeable structural damage in the bridge after the
comparison so that the significance of the skewness in increasing 1994 Northridge earthquake (Apirakvorapinit 2005).
the critical stresses in the bridge elements can be determined. The dynamic simulation for this case lasted 10 s into the ground
motion record. From the analysis of the skewed model, it was found
that the maximum displacement at the middle of the span in the
Skewed Bridge Model Subjected to Northridge
transverse direction occurred at approximately 5.09 s. The node
Ground Motion Record
at which this displacement occurs is located at the middle of the
For the skewed bridge, the results from this analysis show that seis- bottom flange of a girder near the edge of the skewed bridge.
mic demand on the bottom flange of the exterior plate girder near The relative transverse displacement between this node and a node
the abutments is significantly higher than that of interior plate at the end of the span is 14 mm (0.565 in.), as shown in Fig. 8.

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Fig. 5. (a) Top plan view of the plate girders and diaphragms at the abutment; (b) details of the end diaphragm—cross section A-A in Fig. 5(c);
(c) details of a typical intermediate diaphragm perpendicular to the alignment; (d) dimensions of bearing stiffeners at the abutment and pier

The stresses around the left corner on the west side of each seismic demands. This can be interpreted as the main reason behind
girder were found to be relatively large since the supports were re- the damage to one of the corner bearings, which was observed after
strained. Conversely, the stresses around the right corner of each the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
girder on the east side, where the supports are released in the lon-
gitudinal direction, were found to be much lower in magnitude.
Most high stresses are more than 40% of yielding stress for the Nonskewed Model Subjected to Northridge Ground
skewed case (see Fig. 9 and Table 2). Motion Record
Fig. 10 summarizes the values of the bearing reactions in the
skewed bridge obtained from the dynamic analysis. These values To provide a baseline for measuring the severity of critical stresses
indicate that the bearings at the corners require significantly higher in the skewed bridge, a comparable nonskewed bridge was also

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Fig. 8. Displacement response of skewed model to Northridge ground


motion record (relative displacement between the point of maximum
deflection and end of bridge span)

modeled and subjected to the same input motion as that in the case
of the skewed bridge. The analysis was stopped after 10 s into the
record as it was in the skewed bridge case. The maximum displace-
ment at the middle span was found to be 14 mm (0.558 in.) at 4.3 s
(see Fig. 11). The node at which this displacement occurs is at the
middle span of the girder near the edge of the bridge. This is similar
to the case of the skewed bridge model. The pattern of displacement
response is rather symmetrical for each span and each girder during
the ground motion. This is expected in the nonskewed bridge.
As reported in Table 3, the maximum principal stress can be as
high as 50% of the yield stress. The stresses are rather more evenly
distributed to each girder than was the case in the skewed bridge.

Pushover Analysis Results for Skewed and


Fig. 6. Girder designation of the skewed bridge model Nonskewed Model

A pushover analysis was also conducted for both the skewed and
the nonskewed bridge models in order to evaluate the effect of the
irregularity on the stress distribution in the skewed bridge. The re-
Table 1. Element Types Used in Model sults are summarized in Tables 4 and 5. The maximum principal
Number of stress obtained from the pushover analysis for the skewed bridge
degrees of freedom Element model is at least 70% of the yield stress at the west-side location
Structural member Element used per element designation and approximately 50% of the yield stress around the east-side lo-
cation of the bridge (see Table 4). On the west side of the skewed
Girder flange and web Shell 24 S4
bridge, the principal stresses in pushover analysis are greater than
Deck Shell 24 S4 in the dynamic analysis by approximately 5–6%. On the east side,
Diaphragm Beam 12 B31 the principal stresses are also 3–8% greater in pushover analysis.
Struts Beam 12 B31 This effect is due to the nature of the inertial force of the skewed
bridge in dynamic analysis. The results of the pushover analysis
for the nonskewed bridge shows that the principal stresses are
nearly identical with those from the dynamic analysis (see
Table 5).

Analysis of Results

As previously reported in Tables 2 and 4, the largest maximum


stress values at bottom girders on end corners of the bridge (girders
G1 and G15 and G2 and girders G16) are significantly unequal.
Certainly, this is not the case for nonskewed bridges, as seen in
Tables 3 and 5.
The graphs in Fig. 12 show the difference in the bridge re-
sponses when skewed and nonskewed models are compared. In this
figure, the transverse overall reaction force, V, generated as a
Fig. 7. Input data of acceleration ground motion (Northridge)
result of the ground shaking is plotted against the lateral bridge

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Fig. 9. Maximum principal stresses on bottom flange (G1–G2 and G15–G16 for the skewed bridge)

Table 2. Maximum Principal Stress (Dynamic Analysis) as a Percentage of Yield Stress for Skewed Bridge Model
West-side girders G1 G3 G5 G7 G9 G11 G13 G15
Percentage of yield stress 48.07 47.25 60.94 45.59 42.21 53.20 50.69 66.71
East-side girders G2 G4 G6 G8 G10 G12 G14 G16
Percentage of yield stress 41.25 33.03 44.27 26.16 38.11 21.87 31.91 17.88

displacement. As expected, the nonskewed bridge behavior follows


a tighter pattern, indicating less energy dissipation. For a compa-
rable displacement, we observe much wider variation in the force V
for the skewed bridge. This behavior is expected to be even more

Fig. 10. Longitudinal bearing reactions at the skewed bridge abutment Fig. 11. Displacement response of nonskewed model to Northridge
due to the Northridge ground motion (Newhall record); locations of ground motion record (relative displacement between the point of
girders are shown in Fig. 6 maximum deflection and end of bridge span)

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Table 3. Maximum Principal Stress (Dynamic Analysis) as a Percentage of Yield Stress for Nonskewed Bridge Model
West-side girders G1 G3 G5 G7 G9 G11 G13 G15
Percentage of yield stress 55.29 47.32 65.96 54.35 72.78 59.54 75.05 63.50
East-side girders G2 G4 G6 G8 G10 G12 G14 G16
Percentage of yield stress 58.62 63.23 47.20 47.45 58.71 57.02 57.69 63.20

Table 4. Maximum Principal Stress (Pushover Analysis) as a Percentage of Yield Stress for Skewed Bridge Model
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West-side girders G1 G3 G5 G7 G9 G11 G13 G15


Percentage of yield stress 76.19 71.35 94.84 73.66 71.23 68.46 90.08 105.90
East-side girders G2 G4 G6 G8 G10 G12 G14 G16
Percentage of yield stress 58.05 44.08 57.48 35.01 59.18 34.29 56.98 33.30

Table 5. Maximum Principal Stress (Pushover Analysis) as a Percentage of Yield Stress for Nonskewed Bridge Model
West-side girders G1 G3 G5 G7 G9 G11 G13 G15
Percentage of yield stress 61.98 52.73 72.09 57.36 74.63 58.24 75.75 62.43
East-side girders G2 G4 G6 G8 G10 G12 G14 G16
Percentage of yield stress 57.15 61.73 45.88 45.90 56.73 54.87 56.29 61.59

Fig. 12. Structural response of skewed and nonskewed model

pronounced as the angle of skewness increases. The larger energy Both the dynamic and the pushover analyses reveal that the
dissipated in the case of the skewed bridge is consistent with more skewness will affect the stress induced at the bridge girder dramati-
frequent incidences of yield and postyield conditions. This is tan- cally. The differences obtained between the two methods of analy-
tamount to more damage areas, as indicated in our analyses and ses are attributed to the level of sophistications used in each model.
reported in field investigations. The detailed dynamic analysis allows for accurate modeling of
Further evaluation of the analysis results indicates that stresses mass and inertia force distribution in the structure. The pushover
at the bottom flanges at girders G1–G16 of the skewed bridge are analysis, on the other hand, is only a nonlinear static analysis with
markedly different from those in the nonskewed bridge. The per- limitations in terms of modeling the mass and inertia forces.
Currently, there is no specific code-recommended guideline
centages of differences in maximum stresses are provided in
on whether to adjust critical stress values for this type of bridge
Table 6. The pushover analysis results were also compared for
configuration compared with nonskewed equivalent bridges. Thus,
the skewed and nonskewed bridges (see Table 7). As in Tables 6 it is imperative that detailed analyses, as described in this paper, be
and 7, stresses in excess of more than 50% of those in nonskewed conducted to accurately estimate the locations and the magnitudes
bridge can be experienced by a skewed bridge in its girders. This is of stresses developed as a result of potential earthquakes for
certainly an important observation and consideration in seismic properly addressing the seismic resistance capabilities of skewed
analysis and design of skewed bridges. bridges.

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Table 6. Percentages of Differences between Maximum Principal Stresses Conclusions
of Skewed and Nonskewed Bridge Model at Girder Ends (Dynamic
Analysis) In summary, the dynamic simulation, which used 1994 Northridge
West abutment East abutment earthquake ground motion, shows similar damage locations as in
Girder Left end Right end Girder Left end Right end the Astaneh-Asl et al. (1994) report. Nonlinear dynamic analysis
shows approximately a 50–60% difference between maximum
G1 55:53 48.67 G2 61:33 37.46 principal stresses of the skewed and nonskewed bridges studied.
G5 67:39 60.79 G6 45:44 45.09 In addition, pushover analysis shows at least an approximate
G9 74:63 41.58 G10 61:19 34.74 50–80% difference between maximum principal stresses of the
G13 77:94 49.96 G14 59:79 31.81 skewed and nonskewed bridges studied.
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G3 45:30 49.90 G4 65:27 37.42


G7 52:38 47.70 G8 46:25 27.29
G11 56:90 55.00 G12 55:35 21.27 References
G15 60:46 63.28 G16 58:04 19.54
Average 61:32 52.11 56:58 31.83 AASHTO. (1961). Standard specifications for highway bridges, 8th Ed.,
Washington, DC.
AASHTO. (2007). Guide specifications for LRFD seismic bridge design,
Washington, DC.
Table 7. Percentages of Differences between Maximum Principal Stresses Abaqus Version 6.3 [Computer software]. (2002). Hibbitt, Karlsson, &
of Skewed and Nonskewed Bridge Model at Girder Ends (Pushover Sorensen, Inc., Providence, RI.
Analysis) Apirakvorapinit, P. (2005). “Analytical investigation of seismic damage to
West abutment East abutment skewed bridges in California.” Ph.D. dissertation, Illinois Institute of
Technology, Chicago.
Girder Left end Right end Girder Left end Right end
Astaneh-Asl, A., Bolt, B., McMullin, K. M., Donikian, R. R., Modjtahedi,
G1 63:22 76.56 G2 60:70 54.42 D., and Cho, S. W. (1994). Seismic performance of steel bridges during
G5 74:63 94.46 G6 44:66 58.23 the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Univ. of California, Berkeley.
HyperMesh. (2000). Altair hypermesh tutorial version 4.0. Altair Engineer-
G9 76:85 70.67 G10 60:35 55.61
ing, Inc., Troy, MI.
G13 79:04 89.53 G14 59:88 53.46
G3 48:65 73.97 G4 64:45 48.33
G7 53:49 75.86 G8 44:56 36.08
G11 54:49 70.72 G12 54:09 33.73
G15 58:02 102.22 G16 52:58 33.43
Average 63:55 81.75 55:16 46.66

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