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Research Projects (2006-07)

Identifying Number


Project Title

Serviceability Limits and Economical Steel Bridge Design


University of Wyoming

Project Investigator

Dr. Michael Barker, UWY

External Project Contact

Gregg Fredrick, WYDOT

Project Objective

The objective is to conduct serviceability comparisons between state live-load deflection criteria and the AASHTO LRFD standards to provide information on the conservative nature of state serviceability criteria and loss of economical benefits for steel bridge design.

Project Abstract

High Performance Steel (HPS) is a superior material with higher yield strength, improved weldability, greater levels of toughness, and improved weathering resistance that can lead to more economical bridges than conventional steel bridge designs. AASHTO Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) provisions show that using HPS only in the highly stressed regions (hybrid design) can lead to superstructure steel weight savings of up to 20 percent and a cost saving above 10 percent compared to conventional steel bridges.

However, using HPS results in less steel material and, therefore, live load deflections increase over conventional bridges. This means that sometimes deflection will control and the weight and cost savings high performance steel affords will not be realized. This problem is exacerbated in that many states enforce deflection criteria that are more restrictive than those prescribed in AASHTO. In fact, these conservative states actually require additional steel over conventional designs due to stiffness requirements and not strength design. States are spending more on bridges than prescribed by AASHTO design provisions. Limited studies show that many states put an additional 25 percent steel into bridges to meet their conservative deflection criteria rather than saving 20 percent by using high performance materials. This results in a difference of 40-50 percent in the weight of the steel.

States, counties and local municipalities are replacing state and local bridges at an increasing rate due to design life termination, deterioration and functional and structural deficiencies. High Performance Steel shows great promise for producing more durable and more economical bridges. With current deflection limitations, however, many of these state and local bridges will be negatively impacted by deflection limitations. Success will be measured by state adoption of reasonable deflection criteria (this has happened in New Hampshire and Missouri during past limited studies.)

A group of 6 states will be selected for the serviceability comparisons. The states will represent various levels of conservativeness across the country. The states include representation from the Mountain-Plains Consortium region. A set of 5 High Performance Steel bridges that are in service (one with significant field test data) will be used for the study. The bridges range in length, width, girder spacing and geographical location.

Task Descriptions

  1. Identify five state deflection criteria and 6 HPS bridges.
  2. Perform AASHTO LRFD analysis and design studies.
  3. Conduct comparisons and design impacts.
  4. Final report and dissemination.

Milestones, Dates

Starting Date: July 1, 2006
Ending Date: June 30, 2007

Yearly and Total Budget


Student Involvement

One MS graduate student will complete a thesis on the research.

Relationship to Other Research Projects


Technology Transfer Activities

The American Iron and Steel Institute and the National Steel Bridge Alliance has a vested interest in providing guidance on steel girder bridges for states and local municipalities. The plan is to disseminate the effects of deflection limitations on bridge economy through Steel Bridge Forums, Bridge Symposiums and national outlets in coordination with AISI, NSBA and the National Association of County Engineers (NACE). A TRB presentation and TRR publication will be used to maximize reach to state and local bridge engineers. MPC university and LTAP programs will be used to disseminate the research regionally.

Potential Benefits of the Project

Implementation of realistic and appropriate deflection limits over the nation's bridge inventory will result in more efficient and less costly bridges. Conventional steel and High Performance Steel bridge design will be more consistent and cost effective across the country.

TRB Keywords

Steel Bridges, High Performance Steel, Deflections

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050