Robert Dexter, Former University Researcher, Civil Engineering
Steel pier caps designed such that the longitudinal girders are continuous through the pier cap are subject to significant torsion due to differences in the girder end moments and may be susceptible to fatigue cracking. One such pier cap, part of Bridge 69832 on northbound Interstate 35 heading into the business district of Duluth, was instrumented, load tested, and modeled. Several similar pier caps had developed fatigue cracking at different details. The cracks are due to high stress ranges that occur in the corners of the box section. None of these cracks are presently a threat to the structural integrity of the pier caps. Most of the cracks are limited to the welds and will eventually arrest as they grow larger with minimal structural consequences. Therefore the recommendation for these cracks is to inspect them carefully every two years and not repair them. However, holes must be drilled at least at one location where the cracks are presently in the web plates of the pier caps. Recommendations are presented for inspection of similar integral pier caps and for design of new steel pier caps.