# Bridge Mechanics

Mechanics

Jul 18, 2012 (6 years and 7 months ago)

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P.1.1

Section P
Topic 1
Bridge Mechanics

Learning Objectives

A.
List, define and provide examples of the
three principal categories of bridge

B.
List and describe the four bridge member

C.
Recognize material responses to

D.
Recognize typical features of bridge
design.

Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.2

Introduction

Mechanics is the branch of physical science that deals with energy and forces
and their relation to the equilibrium, deformation, or motion of bodies. The
two most important reasons for studying bridge mechanics are:

¾ To understand how bridge members function.
¾ To recognize the impact a defect may have on the load carrying
capability of a bridge component or element.

which determine the size and configuration of its members. Bridge design

Dead loads do not change as a function of time and are considere
d
d
includes both the self-weight of structural members and othe
r
permanent external loads. They can be broken down into two groups:
concrete deck is hardened, including the beam itself and the
concrete deck.
e
concrete deck has hardened (on a composite bridge), includin
g
parapets and any anticipated future deck pavement.

A primary live load is a…..

f
short-term duration, acting on the structure. In bridge applications
,
e
live loads have been established by AASHTO for use in bridge desig
n
and rating. It is important to note that these standard vehicles do no
t
represent actual vehicles.

A

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Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.3

There are two basic types of standard truck loadings described in the
current AASHTO Specifications
.
The H and HS vehicles do not
represent actual vehicles, but can be considered as "umbrella" loads
.
Standard Design Vehicles were developed to give a simpler method
of analysis, based on a good approximation of actual live loads.
:
H20-44 indicates a 180 kN (20 ton) vehicle with a
front axle weighing 35 kN (4 tons), a rear axle weighing 145 kN
(16 tons) and the two axles spaced 4.3 m (14 feet) apart
.

unit, three axle vehicle comprised of a highway tractor with a
semi-trailer. It is designated as a highway semi-trailer truck or
"HS" truck. Its spacing from the rear tractor axle can vary from
4.3 to 9.1 m (14 to 30 feet).
special cases.
developed in order to provide a simple method of calculating
bridge response to a series, of “train”, or trucks. Both the H and
¾ Load Resistance Factor Design – LRFD design vehicular live
LFRD truck load is identical to the HS20 truck. The LRFD
tandem load consist of two 110 kN axles at 1.2 m (25 K at 4
or tandem but is not applied to the design lane loading and is
typically 33 % of the design vehicle.
single unit vehicle with two axles spaced at 1.2 m (4 feet) and
weighing 110 kN (12 tons) each.
14’-0”
(4.3 m)
8,000 lbs
(35 kN)
32,000 lbs
(145 kN)
(3.0 m)
10’-0”
CLEARANCE AND
6
’-
0

(1.8 m)
2’-0”
(0.6 m)

14’-0”
(4.3 m)
8,000 lbs
(
35 kN
)
32,000 lbs
(
145 kN
)
(
3.0 m
)
10’-0”
CLEARANCE AND
6
’-
0

(1.8 m)
2’-0”
(0.6 m)

32,000 lbs
(
145 kN
)

V
Figure P.1.1: AASHTO H20 Truck

Figure P.1.2: AASHTO HS20 Truck
Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.4

¾
Permit vehicles: Permit vehicles are overweight vehicles which,
in order to travel a state’s highways, must apply for a permit
from that state. They are usually heavy trucks (e.g., combination
trucks, construction vehicles, or cranes), which have varying
axle spacings depending upon the design of the individual truck.

A secondary live load is a…..

are designed to resist secondary loads, which include the following:

¾ Buoyancy - the force created due to the tendency of an object to
rise when submerged in water
¾ Centrifugal force - an outward force that a live load vehicle
exerts on a curved bridge
¾ Earth pressure - a horizontal force acting on earth-retaining
substructure units
¾ Earthquake - motion during an earthquake will not cause a
collapse

¾ Ice pressure - created by static or floating ice jammed against
bridge components
¾ Impact loading - the dynamic effect of suddenly receiving a live
¾ Longitudinal force - caused by braking and accelerating of live
pedestrians
.

¾ Rib shortening - a force in arches and frames created by a
¾ Shrinkage - this is a multi-directional force due to dimensional
changes resulting from the curing process
¾ Stream flow pressure - a horizontal force acting on bridge
components constructed in flowing water
¾ Temperature - materials expand as temperature increases and
contract as temperature decreases
vehicles
¾ Wind load on structure - on the exposed area of a bridge
Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.5

Bridge Member Response

Each member of a bridge is intended to respond to loads in a particular way.
Bridge members respond to various loadings by resisting four basic types of
forces. These are:

1. Axial forces (compression and tension)
2. Bending forces (flexure)
3. Shear forces
4. Torsional forces

1. Axial Forces

Axial force is force which acts through the longitudinal axis of a
member.

An axial force is a push or pull type of force which acts in the long
direction of a member. Axial force causes:
¾ Compression: if it is pushing
¾ Tension: if it is pulling

Axial Compression
Axial Tension

Figure P.1.3: Axial Forces
B

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Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
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Bridge Member Response (continued)

2. Bending Forces

Moment is a force developed when an external load applied
transversely to a bridge member causes it to bend.

Bending forces in bridge members are caused by moment. The greates
t
b
ending moment that a member can resist is generally the governin
g
factor, which determines the size and material of the member. Bendin
g
moments produce both compression and tension forces at differen
t
locations in the member and can be positive or negative. Beams an
d
girders are the most common bridge elements used to resist bendin
g
moments. The flanges are most critical because they provide th
e
greatest resistance to the compressive and tensile forces developed b
y
the moment.

Bending members have a neutral axis at which there ar
e
no bending stresses
.

Compression (C)
Axis (NA)
Neutral
Tension (T)
Positive Moment
T
C
N.A.
Compression (C)
Axis (N.A.)Neutral
Tension (T)
Negative Moment
C
T
N.A.

Figure P.1.4: Positive and Negative Moment

3. Shear Forces

Shear is a force, which results from equal but opposite transverse
forces, which tend to slide one section of a member past an adjacent
section.

Beams and girders are common shear resisting members. In a beam,
the web resists most of the shear
.

Horizontal Shear Forces
Resultant Diagonal Tension
Vertical Shear Forces
Potential Crack

Figure P.1.5: Shear
Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.7

Bridge Member Response (continued)

4. Torsional Forces

Torsion is a force resulting from an external moment, which tends to
rotate or twist a member about its longitudinal axis.

Torsional force is commonly referred to as torque. Torsional forces
develop in
b
ridge members, which are interconnected and experience
torsional members.

Figure P.1.6: Torsion

A reaction is a force provided by a support that is equal but opposite to
the force transmitted from a member to its support.

¾ Reaction
Reactions are most commonly vertical forces, but a reaction ca
n
also be a horizontal force. The loads of the entire bridge alway
s
equal the reactions provided by the abutments and the piers.
A
vertical reaction increases as the loads on the member are increase
d
or as the loads are moved closer to that particular support.

Overload occurs when the stresses applied are greater than th
e
elastic limit for the material.
— Buckling: is the tendency of a member to deform or bend ou
t
of plane when subjected to a compressive force.
— Elongation: is the tendency of a member to extend or stretc
h
when subjected to a tensile force. Elongation can be eithe
r
elastic or plastic.
Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.8

Bridge Movements

Bridges move because of many factors - some are anticipated others are not.
Unanticipated movements generally result from settlement, sliding and rotation of
thermal expansions and contractions, shrinkage and creep, earthquakes, rotations,
wind drifting, and vibrations. Of these movements, the three major anticipated
movements are:

Thermal movement
Rotational movements

aesthetics, user discomfort, and possible damage to the whole structure.

Limitations are generally expressed as a deflection-to-span ratio.
Thermal Movements
The longitudinal expansion and contraction of a bridge is dependent on
the range of temperature change, length of bridge, and most importantly,
materials used in construction. Thermal movements are accommodated
using expansion joints and movable bearings.
Rotational Movements
Rotational movement in bridges as a direct result of live load deflection
occurs with the greatest magnitude at the bridge supports. This
movement can be accommodated using bearing devices, which permit
rotation.

P
LL

Figure P.1.7: Rotation at Bearing Caused by Live

Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.9

Identify what each picture represents using the list below.

Axial Tension
Axial Compression
Torsion
Horizontal Shear Force
Vertical Shear Force
Negative Moment
Positive Moment

1. 2.

T
C
N.A.

3. 4.

Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.10

Responses

Certain terms are used to describe the response of a bridge material to loads. A
working knowledge of these terms is essential for the bridge inspector.

Force

A force is the action that one body exerts on another body.

Force has two components: magnitude and direction.
¾ The basic English unit of force is called pound
(lb.)
¾ The basic metric unit of force is called Newton
(N). In the metric
system the kilonewton (kN), which is 1000 Newtons, is used.
¾ A common unit of force, which is used among engineers is a kip

(K), which is 1000 pounds.

Fy
Fz
Fx
F (Force)

Figure P.1.8: Basic Force Components

Stress

Stress is defined as a force per unit area and denotes the intensity of an
internal force.

When a force is applied to a material, an internal stress is developed
.

¾ The basic English unit of stress is pounds per square inch (psi).
¾ Basic metric unit of stress is Newton per square meter or Pasca
l
(Pa).
¾ Stress equals force divided by area.
C

Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.11

Responses (continued)

Deformation
Another material response to a force is material deformation.

Deformation is the local distortion or change in shape of a materia
l
due to stress.

Strain is the measure of deformation and denotes the amount an objec
t
deforms with respect to its original dimension.

¾ Strain: is a dimensionless quantity equal to the change in lengt
h
divided by the original length. There are two kinds of strain:
— Elastic Deformation: is the reversible distortion of a material.
A member is elastically deformed if it returns to its origina
l
shape upon removal of a force. Elastic strain is sometime
s
termed reversible strain because it disappears after the stress i
s
removed.
— Plastic Deformation:is the irreversible or permanen
t
distortion of a material. A material is plastically deformed if i
t
retains a deformed shape upon removal of a force. Plasti
c
strain is sometimes termed irreversible or permanent strai
n
because it remains after the stress is removed.

Creep is a gradual, continuing, irreversible deformation due to a
constant stress level below yield stress.

¾ Creep: is a form of plastic deformation that occurs gradually a
t
stress levels normally associated with elastic deformation. It i
s
caused by molecular readjustments in a material under constan
t

¾ Thermal Effects:In bridges, thermal effects are most commonl
y
experienced in the longitudinal expansion and contraction of th
e
superstructure. Materials expand as temperature increases an
d
contract as temperature decreases. The amount of therma
l
expansion and contraction in a member depends on:
— A coefficient of expansion, unique for each material
— The temperature change
— The member length

Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.12

Responses (continued)

Stress-Strain Relationship
For most structural materials, values of stress and strain are directl
y
proportional. This proportionality exists only up to a particular valu
e
of stress called the elastic limit. Two other frequently used terms
,
which closely correspond with the elastic limit, are the proportiona
l
limit and the yield point.

Modulus of Elasticity:

Modulus of Elasticity is the ratio between the stress applied and th
e
resulting elastic strain.

Young’s modulus is the material property, which defines its stress-
strain relationship. It is the slope of the elastic portion of the stress-
strain curve and is equal to stress divided by strain. The modulus o
f
elasticity applies only as long as the elastic limit of the material has no
t
been reached.

Figure P.1.9: Stress-Strain Diagram

Ductility and Brittleness

Ductility is the amount of plastic deformation a material undergoe
s
prior to breaking.
Ductile materials will have a greatly reduced cross-sectional area befor
e
b
reaking. Structural materials for bridges that are generally ductil
e
include:

¾ Steel
¾ Aluminum
¾ Copper
¾ Wood
Brittle, or non-ductile, materials will not undergo significant plasti
c
deformation before breaking. Failure of a brittle material occur
s
suddenly, with little or no warning. Structural materials that ar
e
generally brittle include:

¾ Concrete
¾ Cast Iron

¾ Stone
¾ Fiber Reinforced Polymer
Yield
Stress
Yield
Stress
Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.13

Responses (continued)

Fatigue

Fatigue is the tendency of a member to fail at a stress below yiel
d

Fatigue is a material response that describes the tendency of a materia
l

Fatigue failure occurs
after a certain number and magnitude of stress cycles has been applied.

Mechanics

properties.

Yield Strength

Yield strength is the stress level defined by a materials yield point.

The ability of a material to resist plastic (permanent) deformation is
called the yield strength.

Tensile Strength

Tensile strength

of a material is the stress level defined by th
e
maximum tensile load that a material can resist without failure.

Tensile strength corresponds to the highest ordinate on the stress-strai
n
curve and is sometimes referred to as the ultimate strength.

Toughness

Toughness is a measure of the energy required to break a material.

It is related to ductility. Toughness is not related to strength. A ductil
e
material with the same strength as a non-ductile material will requir
e
more energy to break and thus exhibit more toughness. For highwa
y
bridges, the CVN (Charpy V-notch) toughness is the toughness valu
e
usually used.

Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.14

True or False

1. Wind load on the structure is considered a primary live load.
_____

2. Material toughness is not necessarily related to strength. _____

4. Ductility is the amount of elastic deformation a material
undergoes prior to breaking. _____

5. Strain is a gradual, continuing, irreversible deformation due to
constant stress level below yield stress. _____

Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.15

Bridge Design Features

It is important to note that one of the primary functions of a bridg
e
inspection is to collect information necessary for a bridge load capacit
y
rating. A bridge load rating is used to determine the usable live loa
d
capacity of a bridge. Bridge load rating is generally expressed in unit
s
of tons.
Inventory Rating:

Load ratings based on the Inventory level allow
comparisons with the capacity for new structures and, therefore,
results in a live load, which can safely utilize an existing
structure for an indefinite period of time. See the Manual for
Condition Evaluation of Bridges, Section 6.6.2 for Allowable
Stress Inventory Ratings and Section 6.6.3 for Load Factor
Inventory Ratings.

Operating Rating:

Load ratings based on the Operating rating level
generally describe the maximum permissible live load to which
the structure may be subjected. See the Manual for Condition
Evaluation of Bridges, Section 6.6.2 for Allowable Stress
Inventory Ratings and Section 6.6.3 for Load Factor Inventory
Ratings.

Span Classifications
Beams and bridges are classified into three span classifications that ar
e
b
ased on the nature of the supports and the interrelationship betwee
n
spans. These classifications are simple, continuous and cantilever.

A simple span is a span with only two supports, each of which is at or
near the end of the span.

Simple: Some characteristics of simple span bridges are:
¾ When loaded, the span deflects downward
¾ The sum of the reactions provided by the two supports equal
s
¾ Shear forces are maximum at the supports
¾ Bending moment throughout the span is positive an
d
maximum at or near the middle of the span
¾ The part of the superstructure
b
elow the neutral axis is i
n
tension while the portion above the neutral axis is i
n
compression
See BIRM Figure P.1.26 for simple span configuration,
deflection, shear and moment diagram.
D

Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.16

Bridge design features (continued)

Span Classifications (continued)

A continuous span is a configuration in which a beam has one or mor
e
intermediate supports and the behavior of the individual spans i
s

Continuous:

Some characteristics of continuous span bridges are:
¾ When loaded, the spans deflect downward and rotate at the
supports
¾ The reactions provided by the supports depend on the span
configuration and the distribution of the loads
¾ Shear forces are maximum at the supports
¾ Positive bending moment is greatest at or near the middle of
each span
¾ Negative bending moment is greatest at the intermediate
supports
¾ For negative bending moments, tension occurs on the top
portion of the span and compression occurs on the bottom
portion of the span (positive bending moment is the opposite)
See BIRM Figure P.1.27 for continuous span configuration,
deflection, shear and moment diagram.

A cantilever span is a span with one end restrained against rotation
and deflection and the other end completely free.

Cantilever:

The restrained end of the cantilever span is also know
n
as the fixed support. When cantilever spans are incorporated int
o
a bridge, they are generally extensions of a continuous span.
Some characteristics of cantilevers are
:

¾ When loaded, the span deflects downward
¾ The fixed support reaction consists of a vertical force and a
resisting moment
¾ The shear is maximum at the fixed support and is zero at the
free end
¾ The bending moment throughout the span is negative and
maximum at the fixed support; bending moment is zero at
the free end
See BIRM Figures P.1.28 and P.1.29 for cantilever span
configuration, deflection, shear and moment diagram.

Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.17

Bridge design features (continued)

Bridges also have two classifications that are based on the relationshi
p
between the deck and the beams, composite or non-composite.

A composite structure is one in which the deck acts together with the

Composite:

The deck material is different than the superstructure
material. The most common combinations are concrete on steel
and concrete on prestressed concrete. Shear connectors such as
studs, spirals, channels, or stirrups that are attached to the beams
and are embedded in a concrete deck provide composite action.

Composite action is achieved only after the concrete deck has
hardened. Bridge plans must be reviewed to determine whether
a structure is non-composite or composite.

Non-composite:

A non-composite structure is one in which the
beams act independently of the deck. Therefore, the beams
alone must resist all of the loads applied to them.

See BIRM Page P.1.30 for composite a structure.

Redundancy

Redundancy in a bridge is a structural condition where there are mor
e
elements of support than are necessary for stability.

There are three types of redundancy in bridge design:
redundant have three or more main load carrying members or
redistributed to the other members and bridge failure would not
occur.

Structural Redundancy: Most bridge designs, which provide
continuity of load path from span to span are referred to as
structurally redundant. Some continuous span two-girder bridge
designs are structurally redundant. In the event of a member
adjacent spans and total bridge failure would not occur.
Internal Redundancy: Internal redundancy is when a bridge
member contains several elements, which are mechanically
fastened together so that multiple load paths are formed. Failure
of one member element would not cause total failure of the
member.

Redundancy is discussed in detail in Topic 8.1.
Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.18

Match the following words with the best description:

1.

Reaction
2.

Composite
3.

Cantilever
4.

Internal
Redundancy
5.

Moment

A. Structure in which deck acts together with
B. Bridge member contains several elements,
which are mechanically fastened together
so that multiple load paths are formed.
C. A span with one end restrained against
rotation and deflection and the other end
completely free.
D. A force developed when an external load
applied transversely to a bridge member
causes it to bend.
E. A force provided by a support that is equal
but opposite to the force transmitted from
a member to its support.
Participant Workbook Bridge Mechanics
P.1.19

Match the loads on the left with the load types shown on the right. Some load types will be
used more than once:
1.
Vehicles
2.
Concrete Deck
3.
4.
Ice Pressure
5.
Parapets

Fill in the blanks choosing from the words below:

Fatigue
Force
Stress
Deformation
Ductility
Toughness
Yield Strength
Tensile Strength
Strain

1.
is the amount of plastic deformation a material undergoes prior to

breaking.
2.
is defined as a force per unit area and denotes the intensity of an

internal force.
3.
is a material failure, which occurs at a stress level below the elastic

4.
is a measure of the energy required to break a material.

Bridge Mechanics Participant Workbook
P.1.20
True or False

1. Shear is a force developed when an external load applied transversely to a bridge member
causes it to bend. _____

2. Axial force is a force, which acts through the longitudinal axis of a member. _____

3. Elongation is the tendency of a member to extend or stretch when subjected to a
compressive force. _____

4. Rotational movement in bridges is a direct result of live load deflection and occurs with
greatest magnitude at the bridge supports. _____

Using the list below, identify the design feature in the photographs.
Simple Span
Cantilever Span
Internal Redundancy
Structural Redundancy
Continuous Span

1. 2.

P.2.1

Section P
Topic 2
Bridge Components
and Elements

Learning Objectives

A.
List the three major components of a
bridge.

B.
Identify the function of the deck, wearing
appurtenances, superstructure elements,
bearings, and substructure elements.

Bridge Components and Elements Participant Workbook
P.2.2

Major Bridge Components

Introduction
This section presents the terminology needed by inspectors to properly
identify and describe the individual elements that comprise a bridge. First the
major components of a bridge are introduced. Finally, the purpose and
function of the major bridge components are discussed in detail.

NBIS Bridge Length

According to the Recording and Coding Guide for the Structure Inventory
and Appraisal of the Nation’s Bridges (in accordance with the Code of
Federal Regulations
23 CFR 650.3) the minimum length for a structure
carrying traffic loads to be included in the National Bridge Inventory is
6.1meters (20 feet).

> 20'
> 20'

> 20'
> 20'
< ½ d(min)
d(min)

Figure P.2.1: NBIS Bridge Length
A
Participant Workbook Bridge Components and Elements
P.2.3

A thorough and complete bridge inspection is dependent upon the bridge
inspector's ability to identify and understand the function of the major bridge
components and their elements. Most bridges can be divided into three basic
parts or components:

1. Deck
2. Superstructure
3. Substructure

1. Deck
That component of a bridge to which the live load is directly applied.

2. Superstructure
That component of the bridge, which supports the deck or riding
surface of the bridge, as well as the loads applied to the deck.

3. Substructure
That component of a bridge, which includes all the elements, which
support the superstructure.

Deck
Superstructure
Abutment (part of
the substructure)
Pier (part of the
substructure)

Figure P.2.2: Major Bridge Components

Bridge components are constructed from timber, steel concrete and
masonry.
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Bridge Components and Elements Participant Workbook
P.2.4

Bridge Component and Element Function

The following are various bridge components or elements. The function of
these various elements will be described.

Deck
the deck to the other bridge components. The load is distributed in
one of two ways:
¾ In most bridges, the deck distributes the live load to the
superstructure through a floor system.
¾ On some bridges, the deck and the superstructure are one unit,
which distributes the live load directly to the bridge supports.
Decks function in one of two ways:
¾ Composite decks – act together with their supporting members
and increase superstructure strength.
¾ Non-composite decks - are not integral with their supporting
members, and they do not contribute to structural capacity.

Wearing Surface
Weathering is a significant cause of deck deterioration. In addition,
vehicular traffic produces damaging effects on the deck surface.
The wearing surface is the topmost layer of material applied upon
the deck to:
¾ Provide a smooth riding surface
¾ Protect the deck from the effects of traffic and weathering.

Wearing Surface

Figure P.2.3: Composite Deck and Steel Superstructure
B
Participant Workbook Bridge Components and Elements
P.2.5

Bridge Component and Element Function(continued)
Deck Joints
The primary function of a deck joint is to accommodate the
expansion, contraction, and rotation of the superstructure. The joint
must also provide a smooth transition from an approach roadway to
a bridge deck, or between adjoining segments of bridge deck.

Figure P.2.4: Deck Joints. Tooth dam and compression seal.

Drainage Systems
The primary function of a drainage system is to remove water from
the bridge deck, from under unsealed deck joints and from behind
abutments and wingwalls.

Deck Appurtenances
The proper and effective use of roadway appurtenances minimizes
any hazard for traffic on the highways as well as waterways.
Appurtenances can include:
¾ Bridge Barriers
¾ Impact Attenuators
¾ Signing
¾ Lighting

Bridge Components and Elements Participant Workbook
P.2.6

Bridge Component and Element Function(continued)

Primary Superstructure Elements
The basic purpose of the superstructure is to carry loads from the
deck across the span and to the bridge supports. The function of the
superstructure is to transmit loads. Bridges are named for their type
of superstructure. Most all superstructures are made up of two
elements:
¾ Floor System – receives traffic loads from the deck and distribute
s
them to the main supporting elements.
¾ Main Supporting Elements – transfer all loads to the substructure
units.

Figure P.2.6: Floor System

Bearings
A bridge bearing is a superstructure element, which provides an
interface between the superstructure and the substructure. There are
three primary functions of a bridge bearing:
¾ Transmit all loads from the superstructure to the substructure.
¾ Permit longitudinal movement of the superstructure due to
thermal expansion and contraction (expansion bearings).

Figure P.2.7: Bearing
Participant Workbook Bridge Components and Elements
P.2.7

Bridge Component and Element Function(continued)

Substructure
The purpose of the substructure is to transfer the loads from the
superstructure to the foundation soil or rock. Typically the
substructure includes all elements below the bearings. Substructure
units function as both axially-loaded and bending members. These
units resist both vertical and horizontal loads applied from the
Substructures are divided into two basic categories:
¾ Abutments – provide support for the ends of the superstructure
and retain the approach embankment.
¾ Piers and bents – provide support for the superstructure at
intermediate points along the bridge spans.

Figure P.2.8: Concrete Abutment

Figure P.2.9: Concrete Pier
Bridge Components and Elements Participant Workbook
P.2.8

List the 3 components of a bridge:

1. _____________________

2. _____________________

3. _____________________

Match the Element with its function:

1. ___
Deck
2. ___
Wearing Surface
3. ___
Deck Joints
4. ___
Drainage
5. ___
6. ___
Superstructure
7. ___
Bearings
8. ___
Substructures

A. Carries traffic and transfers the live load
to other bridge components.
B. Supports the deck or riding surface.
C. Transfers the loads from the
superstructure to the foundation soil or
rock.
D. Provides a smooth riding surface and
protects the deck from the effects of
traffic and weathering.
E. Accommodates the expansion,
contraction and rotation of the
superstructure.
F. Minimizes any hazard for traffic.
movement and allows rotation.
H. Removes water from bridge

P.3.1

Section P
Topic 3
Culvert
Characteristics

Learning Objectives

A.
Describe the basic design characteristics
of a culvert.

B.
List and describe the physical
characteristics of culverts.

C.
List and describe the four types of
culvert distress.

D.
Describe the standard inspection
procedures and locations for culverts.

Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.2

Design Characteristics

A culvert is a structure designed hydraulically to take advantage of
submergence to increase hydraulic capacity. Culverts, as distinguished from
bridges, are usually covered with embankment and are composed of structural
material around the entire perimeter, although some are supported on spread
footings with the streambed serving as the bottom of the culvert. Culverts have
no definite distinction between superstructure and substructure, and have no
“deck”.

A culvert is a hydraulic structure typically under fill.

Hydraulic

Culverts are usually designed to operate at peak flows with a submerged
inlet to improve hydraulic efficiency.

Structural

Culverts are usually covered by embankment material. Culverts must be
designed to support the dead load of the soil over the culvert as well as live
load element depending on the type of culvert, type and depth of cover, and

In most culvert designs the soil or embankment material surrounding the
culvert plays an important structural role. Lateral soil pressures enhance the
culverts ability to support vertical loads. The stability of the surrounding
soil is important to the structural performance of most culverts.

Figure P.3.1: Culvert Structure
A

Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.3

There are two general types of loads that must be carried by culverts: dead

over an existing culvert.

The live loads on a culvert include the loads and forces, which act upon the
culvert due to vehicular or pedestrian traffic. The effect of live loads
decreases as the height of cover over the culvert increases. When the cover
is more than two feet, concentrated loads may be considered as being
spread uniformly over a square with sides 1.75 times the depth of cover.
For single spans, if the height of earth fill is more than 2.4 meters (8 feet)
and exceeds the span length, the effects of live loads can be ignored all
together.

Figure P.3.2: Surface Contact Area for Single
Dual Wheel

Figure P.3.3: Distribution of Live Load
Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.4

Structural Categories

Based upon material type, culverts can be divided into two broad structural
categories: rigid and flexible.

Rigid Culverts

Culverts made from materials such as reinforced concrete and stone
masonry are very stiff and do not deflect appreciably. The culvert material
itself provides the needed stiffness to resist loads. In doing this, zones of
tension and compression are created. The culvert material is designed to
resist the corresponding stresses.

Rigid Culverts are discussed in detail in Sections 7.5, 7.12, and 12.3.

Flexible culverts

Flexible culverts are commonly made from steel or aluminum. In some
states composite materials are used. As stated earlier, flexible culverts rely
on the surrounding backfill material maintain their structural shape. Since
they are flexible, they can be deformed significantly with no cracks
occurring.

As vertical loads are applied, a flexible culvert will deflect if the
surrounding fill material is loose. The vertical diameter decreases while the
horizontal diameter increases. Soil pressures resist the increase in
horizontal diameter.

Flexible Culverts are discussed in detail in Section 12.4.

Figure P.3.4: Rigid Culvert

Figure P.3.5: Flexible Culvert

Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.5

Fill in the blanks in 1 – 5, choosing from the following list.

Culvert
Hydraulic
Embankment

Rigid culverts
Flexible culverts
Bending
Shear
Deflect

1. The effect of __________ decreases as the height of cover over the
culvert increases.

2. Culverts are usually covered by __________ material.

3. As vertical loads are applied, a flexible culvert attempts to _______.

4. A _______ is a hydraulic structure typically under fill.

5. In a _____________, the culvert material itself provides the needed

Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.6

Physical Characteristics

Culvert Materials

1. Precast Concrete
2. Cast-in-place Concrete
3. Metal
4. Masonry
5. Timber
6. Other

1. Precast Concrete
Concrete culvert pipe is manufactured in up to five standard strength
classifications. The higher the classification number, the higher the
strength. Box culverts are designed for various depths of cover and
live loads. All of the standard shapes are manufactured in a wide
range of sizes. Precast box culverts are discussed in Topic 1.12.

2. Cast-in-place Concrete
One advantage of cast-in-place construction is that the culvert can be
designed to meet the specific requirements of a site. Due to the long
construction time of cast-in-place culverts, precast concrete or
corrugated metal culverts are sometimes selected.

3. Metal
Flexible culverts are typically either steel or aluminum and are
constructed from factory-made corrugated metal pipe or field
assembled from structural plates. Structural plate products are
available as plate pipes, box culverts, or long span structures.

Figure P.3.6: Metal Culvert
B

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Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.7

4. Masonry
Stone and brick are durable, low maintenance materials. Currently
stone and brick are seldom used for constructing culvert barrels.

Figure P.3.7: Stone Masonry Culvert

5. Timber
There are a limited amount of timber culverts throughout the nation.
Timber culverts are generally box culverts and are constructed from
individual timbers similar to railroad ties. The vast majority of these
culverts do not have floors.

6. Other Materials
There are several other materials which may be encountered during
culvert inspections, including cast iron, stainless steel, terra cotta,
asbestos cement, and plastic.

Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.8

Culvert Shapes

A wide variety of standard shapes and sizes are available for most culvert
materials.

1. Circular
2. Pipe Arch and Elliptical
Shapes
3. Arches
4. Box Sections
5. Multiple Barrels
6. Frame Culverts

1. Circular
The circular shape is the most common shape manufactured for pipe
culverts. It is hydraulically and structurally efficient under most
conditions.

2. Pipe Arch and Elliptical Shapes
Pipe arch and elliptical shapes are often used instead of circular pipe
when the distance from channel invert to pavement surface is limited
or when a wider section is desirable for low flow levels.

Figure P.3.8: Pipe Arch Culvert

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Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.9

3. Arches
Arch culverts offer less of an obstruction to the waterway than pipe
arches and can be used to provide a natural stream bottom where the
stream bottom is naturally erosion resistant.

Figure P.3.9: Arch Culvert

4. Box Sections
Rectangular cross-section culverts are easily adaptable to a wide
range of site conditions including sites that require low profile
structures. In addition, box sections have an integral floor.
Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.10

5. Multiple Barrels
Multiple barrels are used to obtain adequate hydraulic capacity
under low embankments or for wide waterways. The span or
opening length of multiple barrel culverts includes the distance
between barrels as long as that distance is less than half the opening

Figure P.3.10: Multiple Cell Concrete Culvert

6. Frame Culverts
Frame culverts are constructed of cast-in-place or precast reinforced
concrete. This type of culvert has no floor (concrete bottom) and fill
material is placed over the structure.

Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.11

Match the culvert types one the left with the most appropriate
description on the right:

1.

Frame Culverts
2.

Cast-in-place Concrete
3.

Masonry
4.

Box Sections
5.

Multiple Barrels
6.

Circular

A. Easily adaptable to a wide range of
site conditions and have an integral
floor.

B. Can be designed to meet the specific
requirements of a site.

C. Constructed of concrete, have no
floor and are covered with fill
material.

D. Manufactured shape which is
hydraulically and structurally
efficient under most conditions.

E. Durable, low maintenance materials
which are currently seldom designed.

F. Are used to obtain adequate
hydraulic capacity under low
embankments or for wide waterways.

Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.12

Culvert Distress

Types of Distress

The combination of high earth loads, long pipe-like structures and running
water tends to produce the following types of distress:

1. Shear or Bending Failure
2. Foundation Failure
3. Hydraulic Failure
4. Debris Accumulation

1. Shear or Bending Failure
High embankments may impose very high loads on all sides of a
culvert and can cause shear or bending failure.

2. Foundation Failure
Either a smooth sag or differential vertical displacement at
construction or expansion joints (settlement). Tipping of
wingwalls. Lateral movement of precast or cast-in-place box
sections.

Figure P.3.11: Cracking of Culvert Wingwall Due to
Foundation Settlement

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Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.13

3. Hydraulic Failure
Full flow design conditions result in accelerated scour and
undermining at culvert ends as well as at any irregularities within
the culvert due to foundation problems.

Figure P.3.12: Scour and Undermining

4. Debris Accumulation
Branches, sediment and trash can often be trapped at the culvert
entrance restricting the channel flow and causing scour and
embankment erosion.

Figure P.3.13: Sediment Buildup
Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.14

Inspection Procedures and Locations

Procedures

Inspection procedures for culverts include:

¾ Visual
¾ Physical

Inspection procedures for the various material types are discussed in Topics
2.1 Materials – Timber, 2.2 Materials – Concrete, and 2.3 Materials – Steel
of this workbook and Topics 13.1, 13.2 and 13.3 Advanced Inspection
Techniques of the BIRM.

A logical sequence for inspecting culverts helps ensure that a thorough and
complete inspection will be conducted. In addition to the culvert
components, the inspector should also look for:
¾ High-water marks
¾ Changes in the drainage area
¾ Other indications of potential problems
In this regard, the inspection of culverts is similar to the inspection of
bridges.

Locations

The inspector should select one end of the culvert and inspect the
embankment, waterway, headwalls, wingwalls, and culvert barrel. The
inspector should then move to the other end of the culvert. The following
sequence is applicable to all culvert inspections:

¾ Overall condition
¾ Approach roadway and embankment settlement
¾ Waterway (see in Topic 11.2)
¾ End treatments
¾ Appurtenance structures
¾ Culvert barrel

D

Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.15

Overall Condition

General observations of the condition of the culvert should be made while
approaching the culvert area. The purpose of these initial observations is to
familiarize the inspector with the structure. They may also point out a need
to modify the inspection sequence or indicate areas requiring special
attention. The inspector should also be alert for changes in the drainage
area that might affect runoff characteristics.

Defects in the approach roadway and embankment may be indicators of
possible structural or hydraulic problems in the culvert. The approach
roadway and embankment should be inspected for the following conditions:

¾ Sag in roadway or guardrail
¾ Cracks in pavement
¾ Pavement patches or evidence that roadway has settled
¾ Erosion or failure of side slopes

Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.16

Waterway

Refer to Topic 11.2 for the inspection of waterways.

End Treatments

Inspections of end treatments primarily involve visual inspection, although
hand tools should be used such as a plumb bob to check for misalignment, a
hammer to sound for defects, and a probing rod to check for scour and
undermining. In general, headwalls should be inspected for:
¾ Movement or settlement
¾ Cracks
¾ Deterioration
¾ Traffic hazards
Culvert ends should be checked for:
¾ Undermining
¾ Scour
¾ Evidence of piping

See Topic 10.1 for a detailed description of defects and inspection
procedures of wingwalls.

Figure P.3.15: Headwall and Wingwall End
Treatment on Box Culvert

Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.17

Appurtenance Structures

Aprons should be checked for:
¾ Undermining
¾ Settlement
The joints between the apron and headwalls should be inspected to see if it
is watertight.

Energy dissipaters are used when outlet velocities are likely to cause
streambed scour downstream from the culvert. Energy dissipaters may
include stilling basins, riprap or other devices. Energy dissipaters should be
inspected for:
¾ Material defects
¾ Overall effectiveness

Culvert Barrel

The full length of the culvert should be inspected from the inside. All
components of the culvert barrel should be visually examined, including:
¾ Walls
¾ Floor
¾ Top slab
¾ Joints
The concrete should be sounded by tapping with a hammer particularly
around cracks and other defects. It is important to time the inspection so
that water levels are low. Culverts with small diameters can be inspected by
looking through the culvert from both ends or by using a small movable
camera.

Figure P.3.16: Apron
Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.18

True or False

1. Culverts are used in situations where there is generally very little flow of water. _____

2. The effects of live loads on a culvert are increased as the height of cover over the culvert
increases. _____

3. In most culvert designs the soil or embankment material surrounding the culvert plays an
important structural role. _____

4. Rigid culverts are generally made from steel or aluminum. _____

5. As vertical loads are applied, a flexible culvert attempts to deflect. _____
Fill in the blanks choosing the best possible answer from the following list:
Precast Concrete
Cast-in-place Concrete
Timber
Metal
Masonry
Circular
Arches
Box Sections
Multiple Barrels
Pipe Arches

1. ________________________ are used to obtain adequate hydraulic capacity under low
embankments or for wide waterways.

2. _____________________ have an integral floor.

3. Arch culverts offer less obstruction to the waterway than _________________________.

4. There are a limited amount of __________________ culverts throughout the nation.

5. Flexible culverts are constructed of __________________.
Participant Workbook Culvert Characteristics
P.3.19

Match the shapes with the best description:

1. __ __
End Treatments

2. ____
Hydraulic Failure

3. ____

4. ____
Foundation Failure

5. ____
Culvert Barrel

A. Full flow design conditions result in
accelerated scour and undermining at culvert
ends.

B. The full length should be inspected from
inside

C. Either a smooth sag or differential vertical
displacement at construction or expansion
joints.

D. Check for movement, cracks, traffic hazards
and scour.

E. Problems seen here may be indicators of
possible settlement, structural or hydraulic
problems in the culvert.

Culvert Characteristics Participant Workbook
P.3.20