2009 China-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium

Bridges for the Flat World: Next-Generation Highway Bridge Structures

Nearly eighty percent of California highway bridges, and a similar portion of bridges in the US, are cast-in-place reinforced concrete structures designed and developed using engineering techniques of the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. Design of new bridges today is not substantially different. The question we face is: how to design and build new highway overpass bridges with prefabricated structural elements and connection, made using a variety of advanced materials, equipped with seismic response modification devices, and instrumented using state-of-the-art sensors to economically achieve a new level of seismic safety and a new level of long-term durability?

In this talk, I will present details about the ongoing Caltrans and PEER Center projects on the next-generation of highway bridge structures. The principles of Seismic Accelerated Bridge Construction are the basis for development of the next-generation bridge structures to achieve economy and speed of construction while minimizing disruption of traffic and commerce. We are exploring prefabricated reinforced concrete and steel structural modules connected using novel connections that incorporate response modification device to increase seismic resistance and enable rapid traffic flow recovery and bridge repair after severe earthquakes. We are examining the seismic behavior of structural elements made using advanced materials, such as self-consolidating fiber reinforced concrete and weathering steels, to determine their role in improving long-term deterioration resistance. We are investigating how to design and the efficiently use large quantities of embedded sensors to continuously monitor the state of the next-generation bridge structures, suitable for both long-term degradation evaluation and short-term post- disaster traffic network management. Together, these efforts will result in conceptual designs of the next-generation bridge structures and draft design provisions to construct them.