Live Load Testing of Appalachia, Va Concrete Arch Bridges for Load Rating Recommendation

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Virginia Tech


As America's infrastructure ages, many of the nation's bridges approach the end of their service life. In order to develop a method for handling the rising number of deficient and functionally obsolete bridges, nondestructive tests and evaluations must be undertaken. Valuable information from these tests regarding the strength and condition of bridges will help in making decisions about their rehabilitation and replacement.

Two adjoining open spandrel reinforced concrete arch bridges in downtown Appalachia, Virginia were selected for live load testing by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Both bridges have supported an increasing amount of extreme coal truck traffic throughout their service life and are essential to the efficient transport of coal in the region. Because of their age, having been built in 1929, and the amount of visible damage and repairs, VDOT was concerned about their remaining capacity and safe operation.

The live load tests focused on global behavior characteristics such as service strain and deflection as well as local behavior of the arches surrounding significant repairs. It was found that the strain and deflection data collected during load testing displayed linear elastic behavior, indicating excess capacity beyond the test loads. Also, given the loading applied, the measured strains and deflections were small in magnitude, showing that the bridges are still acting as stiff structures and are in good condition. Data collected during these tests was compared to results from a finite element model of the bridges to determine the coal truck size which is represented by the live load test loading configurations. The model comparisons determined the test loads produced comparable deflections to those produced by the target coal truck load. Through this approach, a recommendation was given to VDOT regarding the satisfactory condition of the aging bridges to aid in the process of load rating and maintenance scheduling for the two bridges.



open-spandrel concrete arch bridge, live load test, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), finite element modeling