Seismic Performance of Reinforced Concrete Bridges Allowed to Uplift during Multi-Directional Excitation, PEER Report 2012-02


The behavior of bridges subjected to recent moderate and large earthquakes has led to bridge design detailed for better seismic performance, particularly through wider bridge foundations to handle larger expected design forces. Foundation uplift, which is not employed in conventional bridge design, has been identified as an important mechanism, in conjunction with structural yielding and soil-structure interaction that may dissipate energy during earthquakes. Preventing uplift through wider foundations looks past the technical and economic feasibility of allowing foundation uplift during seismic events. The research presented in th is study is part of a larger experimental and analytical investigation to develop and validate design methods for bridge piers on shallow foundations allowed to uplift during seismic events.

Several analytical and some experimental studies have been performed to assess rocking and or uplift of shallow foundation systems, however they have evaluated systems with a limited range of footing dimensions and seismic excitations. As such, there is an uncertainty in the information needed to base a performance evaluation and develop design methods. The purpose of this study is to investigate through experi mental and analytical studies the seismic performance of uplifting bridge piers on shallow foundations when considering different ground motions and footing dimensions, as well as identifying key differences in performance evaluation criteria for conventional and uplifting bridge pier systems.

The experimental study dynamically tested a single reinforced concrete bridge column specimen with three adjustable footing configurations grouped by footing dimension, and tested for various combinations of one, two, and three components of seismic excitation. Groups one and two evaluated uplifting systems where the column was limited to elastic loading levels while group three considered inelastic column loading levels. All test groups remained stable and exhibited some rocking and or uplift during testing. Analytical models were developed and validated using the experimental testing results to predict local and global footing and column response. Reliable estimates of forces and displacements during elastic and inelastic response were achieved. To assess the seismic performance of a range of bridge pier systems allowed to uplift a parametric investigation using the validated analytical models was performed in which the column was modeled per conventional design criteria to ensure adequate strength and flexural ductility. The parameters varied in clude footing width, ground motion excitation, and elastic or inelastic column response. Response of the uplifting bridge pier systems was found to be sensitive to the structural periods, magnitude of excitation, and footing width.

Full List of PEER Reports: click here.

Andres O. Espinoza
Stephen A. Mahin
Publication date: 
July 2, 2012
Publication type: 
Technical Report
Espinoza, A.O., & Mahin, S.A. (2012). Seismic Performance of Reinforced Concrete Bridges Allowed to Uplift during Multi-Directional Excitation, PEER Report 2012-02. Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA.