Analysis of Girder Differential Deflection and Web Gap Stress for Rapid Assessment of Distortional Fatigue Stress in Multi-Girder Steel Bridges


Huijuan Li, Arturo Schultz

October 2005

Report no. MnDOT 2005-38

Distortion-induced fatigue cracking in unstiffened web gaps is common in steel bridges. Previous research by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) developed methods to predict the peak web gap stress and maximum differential deflection based upon field data and finite element analyses from two skew supported steel bridges with staggered bent-plate and cross-brace diaphragms, respectively. This project aimed to test the applicability of the proposed methods to a varied spectrum of bridges in the MnDOT inventory. An entire bridge model (macro-model) and a model encompassing a portion of the bridge surrounding the diaphragm (micro-model) were calibrated for two instrumented bridges. Dual-level analyses using the macro- and micro-models were performed to account for the uncertainties of boundary conditions. Parameter studies were conducted on the prototypical variations of the bridge models to define the sensitivity of diaphragm stress responses to typical diaphragm and bridge details. Based on these studies, the coefficient in the web gap stress formula was calibrated and a linear prediction of the coefficient was proposed for bridges with different span lengths. Additionally, the prediction of differential deflection was calibrated to include the influence of cross-brace diaphragms, truck loading configurations and additional sidewalk railings. A simple approximation was also proposed for the influence of web gap lateral deflection on web gap stress.

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