Seismic Performance of Column-to-Drilled-Shaft Connections in Reinforced Concrete Bridges, PEER Report 2021-10


Drilled shaft foundations are often used to support reinforced concrete bridge columns founded in soft soils or in locations where a small footprint is desired. Increasingly, the shaft is being built with a diameter larger than that of the column, to allow tolerance in the column placement and to facilitate plastic hinge formation in the column rather than in the shaft. The column–shaft connection, which involves a noncontact splice between the column and shaft bars, is a key component in this structural system. However, there is limited research on the behavior of these connections under seismic loads. In order to understand the force-transfer mechanism of column–shaft connections under seismic loading, one quasi-static cyclic experimental test was conducted on a column–shaft subassembly. Measured results were compared with those from three previous experiments performed at the University of Washington and others conducted at the University of California San Diego.

The study found that the amount of shaft transverse reinforcement in the connection region was critical in determining the failure mode of the connection. In specimens with relatively low amounts of transverse reinforcement, including the specimen tested during this study and a previous specimen tested at the University of Washington, the connection failed through a shaft prying failure mode; the specimens developed large vertical cracks between the confined column core and the annular shaft transition region, and the shaft transverse reinforcement eventually fractured at large drift ratios. Therefore, three methodologies for detailing the shaft transverse reinforcement were evaluated, and a new analysis procedure using a strut-and-tie model was proposed. It is consistent with the measured and observed performances of the tested connections and is applicable to shafts supporting either precast or cast-in-place columns. The new procedure allows engineers to (a) more accurately predict the behavior of a column–shaft connection and (b) prevent an undesirable below-ground failure in the shaft transition region. Lastly, a set of design equations based on the strut-and-tie findings and existing design models is proposed for use in practice.

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Michelle Chang
John Stanton
Marc Eberhard
Publication date: 
October 1, 2021
Publication type: 
Technical Report
Chang, M., Stanton, J., & Eberhard, M. (2021). Seismic Performance of Column-to-Drilled-Shaft Connections in Reinforced Concrete Bridges, PEER Report No. 2021/10. Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA.