Feasibility of fiber reinforced composite materials used in highway bridge superstructures

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Virginia Tech

Composite materials are considered here as structural materials of highway bridge superstructures. Bridge deck designs can be done according to AASHTO¹ specification and elastic design concepts.

In order to evaluate the feasibility of composites as structural materials of highway bridge superstructures, composite materials are compared not only to composite materials themselves but also to the most popular bridge structural materials, which are reinforced concrete and structural steel.

The AASHTO¹ HS2O-44 truck load is selected as the standard loading condition of all designs. Loads other than dead load and live load are not considered. Configurations of the bridges are different. Appropriate cross-section of girders are selected according to the material types. For fiber reinforced composite materials, box girder is used, for reinforced concrete, T-beam is selected; in addition, steel concrete composite section is another case.

Design methods are different from material to material. Reinforced concrete T-beam design is based on the 'Ultimate Strength Design' method. Steel concrete composite sections are designed according to the 'Load & Resistance Factor Design'. For composite materials, 'Elastic Design' is selected.

The results derived are as expected. Substantial weight saving is achieved by simply replacing concrete or steel with composite materials. This also results in many other advantages such as construction time, cost, foundation settlement and support requirements.