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State of Wisconsin/Department of Transportation

Program: SPR-0010(36) FFY99 Part: II Research and Development
Project Title: Rapid Bridge Construction Technology Project ID: 0092-07-08
UW Contract ID: 144-PW71
Administrative Contact: Nikki Hatch Sponsor: Wisconsin Department of Transportation
WisDOT Technical Contact: Scot Becker Approved Starting Date: October 1, 2006
Approved by COR/Steering Committee: $124,411 Original End Date: October 1, 2008
Current End Date: Project Investigator (agency & contact): Mike Oliva,
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Number of Extensions:

Percent Complete: 25%

Request a No Cost Time Extension (Please Select One): YES NO

Reason for No Cost Time Extension:
Not Applicable

Project Description:
One of the important factors determining the efficiency of highway construction is the construction
duration due to its possible impacts on public by causing traffic disruption, traffic delays, and detours.
Shortened construction durations are beneficial for the public in terms of economy, work zone safety and
reduced effects on the environment. Utilizing precast elements proved to be an effective means of reducing
construction time since it eliminates forming, placing, curing time required for conventional cast in place
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is evaluating efficient methods for constructing highway
bridges more quickly in the future. This project will provide a solution for an essential part of that effort by
suggesting rapid methods of prefabricating bridge substructure systems. Using precast elements for bridge
superstructures for rapid construction followed by research projects in the area is not new to Wisconsin. On
the other hand substructure construction still composes a considerable time of total construction duration.
Although several bridge projects including precast substructure elements were completed around US and
abroad, precast technology for substructures does not have sufficient number of applications in Wisconsin.
This project aims to focus on developing bridge substructure elements for use in Wisconsin by adapting the
systems which are practiced in existing projects if possible. Analytical study is preferred as long as the
suitable systems can be defined for Wisconsin. The substructure elements mentioned are as follows: piers,
abutments, bent caps and piles individually or as a system.
The research will be conducted starting with a literature review to determine the systems that are applicable
to Wisconsin. Down selection of the systems reviewed will be performed by meetings with department of
transportation and Wisconsin precast manufacturers. Standard plans, design guidelines and examples, cost
estimates and suggestion of specifications and contracting methods will be the end products for the project.

Progress This Quarter:
(Includes project committee mtgs, work plan status, contract status, significant progress, etc.)
The work focused on this quarter was mostly on down selection of connection types with a meeting with precast
manufacturers. The precasters reviewed the proposed details and modularizing and evaluated the details in terms of
constructability and availability. The option of shallow pile cap to be used as abutment was studied in more details
since it can reduce the weight to be transported in considerable amounts, eliminate connection needs and thus
shorten and simplify the erection process due to its small depth compared to A1 and A5 types of abutments. The
constructability and feasibility of the design was checked using an example long span bridge of high superstructure
load. Next the adequacy of pile to abutment embedded-grouted connection were checked for load transfer, types of
special reinforcement around the pile was suggested. Lastly modularizing the precast abutments exceeding the
transportable weight limit to smaller pieces was examined under the restriction of weight limit only, using identical
modules for each project. (Appendix for details)

Work Next Quarter:
The next quarter aims to develop standard plans of abutments according to the enveloping load cases of Wisconsin
bridges and DOT design practice, examining the horizontally connected abutment modules. Then a detailed review
for precast pier caps will be performed to see the alternatives of systems to be down selected.

Circumstances Affecting Progress/Budget:

Gantt Chart:


1. Connection down selection

1.1. Module to Module Connections

Within the last quarter of the project, several alternatives for connecting the wall type elements were
presented to be used for abutments modules. These module to module connections include bolted
connections, welded connections, grouted connections and cast in place connections. The emphasis was on
designing the abutment bodies and piles so that the connections are neither large load carrying nor so
complicated to construct. Wet connections requiring cast in place concrete is also not preferred unless load
transfer is provided that way since rapid construction is the goal. Taking these criteria as the basis,
connection details proposed earlier were reviewed and some were eliminated after discussions with precast
manufacturers. A meeting with Tim Holien from Spancrete was held and connection alternatives were

Connection ideas requiring welding were eliminated for several reasons; this will introduce an extra step, it
is not used for bridges due to lack of specifications and control, it necessitates strict site quality control
during welding operation and it is not preferred by DOT. In addition to these, the presence of steel in the
connection detail makes it prone to corrosion and creates durability problems unless the connection is
covered properly.

Similarly, bolted connections which require welding to be able to carry loads were given the low priority.
However bolted connections without welding can be used as non load carrying connections to adjust the
alignment of the modules for erection as a construction aid or to provide integrity after the construction.

The other alternative, grouted connections were focused on since they are considered to be easy to
construct and simple connections for vertical module to module joints. Grouted female-female type of
connection also provides the load transfer of shear due to earth pressure that is expected to be carried by the
abutment modules and provide integrity of the abutment body. Difficulties in attaching the forms and
grouting the joint for certain large heights were also noted. The type of grout to be used for shear keys
should be compatible with the concrete, constructible and durable for the connection not to be the weak
point of the abutment body.

Another type of connection proposed in the booklet suggests a cast in place bond beam on top of the
vertical abutment modules. Although this option requires more cast in place concrete meaning longer
duration time, the continuity of the abutment is formed at the top as it is done by the pile support at the
bottom of the abutment. The derivation of this connection method can be forming pockets on the top
corners of modules to accommodate reinforcement. Aiming at the continuity at the top but still avoiding
cast in place concrete as much as possible; grouted splicers were considered to be the means of connecting
the reinforcement and the pockets are to be grouted afterwards. Although splicing the bars accommodated
in the blockouts at top of the modules means lower construction tolerance, the continuity of top
reinforcement in cast in place abutment would be simulated.

1.2. Pile to Abutment Connection

The second connection point for precast abutment construction is the abutment body to pile connection. It
was observed that in the existing projects reviewed piles are connected to the abutment body either by
welding or embedment. The latter is decided to be the adapted connection type for Wisconsin since welding
application in bridges is not practiced as mentioned above. For the bridges constructed this socket type of
connection is applied such that piles are embedded in the blockouts formed in precast body and the voids
remaining are filled with non shrink grout or concrete.

The embedment length for cast in place A5 type of abutment is set to be 8 ft for a 10 ft abutment in the
standards of WisDOT. The piles are assumed to retain the earth pressure while the abutment body serves as
a bending member in between piles. The precaster manufacturers evaluated the 8 ft / 10 ft embedment
length to abutment height ratio and concluded that forming the block out of 8 ft for piles could be
cumbersome at the plant. Moreover the anticipated errors in pile driving will be accommodated by a
horizontal tolerance 4” of extra gap at each side of the pile around the piles. Taking into consideration the
possible bending of piles due to construction errors will call for larger tolerances than 4” for long
embedment lengths. These facts mentioned above were the reasoning to limit the embedment length to
approximately 2 ft for the precast correspondent of A5 abutment. The load transfer from the abutment body
to pile at the shortened embedment length of approximately 2 ft and the strength of concrete body around
the pile at the load transfer and maximum moment points had to be checked.

The loads are transferred from the abutment to the pile by bearing, the skin friction in the socket, and the
couple opposing the moment created by the earth pressure. The surface of the inside face of the sockets can
be roughened to increase the friction and to form shear wedges. The failure modes can be a punching
failure of the column into the abutment or side bursting of the abutment sides around the pile at the
connection specific to the precast abutment. The bearing check against punching was already performed for
the pile cap by checking the punching resistance of the abutment at the pile blockouts. This check was
performed for the pile cap option since it is the most critical one for punching failure due to the less
concrete cover above the pile and the dimensions set were set accordingly. The precast version of A5
abutment which is higher than the pile cap would have satisfactory punching strength too.

Next, the sufficiency of the side cover around the pile is studied. This check was performed for the A5
abutment since it is the highest abutment thus transferring the highest moments to the piles caused by the
earth pressure behind. This region is to be enhanced with denser reinforcement with respect to the region in
between piles to serve for the necessary transfer from abutment to the pile and to prevent concrete failure at
the transfer location.


The analysis is performed by considering the vertical transverse reinforcement at the sides around the pile
as acting for bending exposed by the pile reaction shown in the cross sectional view when the sides are
assumed to behave like cantilevers. This is a conservative but safe approach since the sides of the socket
are restrained at both ends in the plan by the continuous side wall in the longitudinal direction. Providing
longitudinal reinforcement is also important at the connection location to assure the restraint of the sides in
the plan view. For the side thicknesses greater than 5 the bent cap performs satisfactory for both shear and
bending with adequate reinforcement. Placing denser longitudinal, horizontal reinforcement and an extra
stirrup around the pile is suggested accordingly. The 5 in side thickness is omitted from the design
alternatives since it was not practical to accommodate reinforcement either.

2. Abutment as a Pile Cap

In addition to replacing A1 and A5 type of abutments of WisDOT, a pile cap can be utilized as an abutment
and can eliminate the vertical connections due to its shallow depth and thus lighter weight. As described
before and by the figure above, piles are main the earth retaining structure and a precast pile cap serves for
distributing the superstructure load to the piles for this structure. The load from the abutment to the piles is
transferred in the minimum embedment length of 2 ft. The pile cap can be constructed at top of the slope
with a superstructure spanning longer distances or at the bottom of the span so with precast panels behind
the piles to help retaining the earth or in front of the piles to cover the piles.

To be able to check the feasibility of this option, a long span bridge of approximately 130 ft span length
with prestressed girders was investigated as an example to see the reinforcement requirement. For this case
the prestressed girders transmit 330 k of vertical load to the abutment body and the girder locations are
assumed to be in the middle of two piles which are arbitrarily located 7 ft apart. The piles are also spaced 7
ft apart which is close to the maximum allowable spacing of WisDOT. The girder locations as well as the
loading locations are assumed to be in the midspan of two piles since it creates the most undesirable
condition. Reinforced concrete design is shown below. Although prestressed and posttensioned concrete
alternatives were examined in terms of feasibility and constructability, these checks resulted in negligibly
small prestressing area due to large concrete volume. Also according to the feedback from precast
manufacturers reviewing the preliminary dimensions, the abutment body has enough strength to be lifted
and erected without prestressing. Post tensioning option was also eliminated since it did not match with
WisDOT preferences because of unfamiliarity of the contractors with the method and need of a separate
contractor. The first reinforced concrete design was based on bending theory as it is usable for abutments
which carry distributed load from the superstructure such as concrete slab type of superstructure. The
design according to strut and tie model is also presented since DOT also is inclined towards using strut and
tie model for abutments for the new standards.

Reinforced concrete design of pile cap for the example bridge picked is shown below for the pile blockout
location since it is the critical section with less concrete area. The confinement of the pile and the bearing
strength of concrete at the pile locations will be investigated separately. The designs will be repeated for
the envelope loading case for the most general case and complying with the DOT practice to standardize
the design if this example proves the usability of his option.

3 ft

Since the depth of the cap beam is relatively large compared to the shear span length, the beam is also
designed by using strut and tie modeling to compare the results with the design based on the bending
theory. The strut and tie design is shown below.

3 #4 bars at each face
3 #4 bars at each face
#6 / 9 in crack rf

Elevation View

The pile locations are not only critical because of the less concrete cross sectional area but also because of
the fact that they might be the critical points for punching and side bursting. The abutment body is
connected to the piles by grout weakening the monolithic action and then allowing the possibility of
abutment to punching. Punching of the pile into the pile cap is examined under this topic since pile cap is
the shallowest abutment option proposed.

The connection of the abutment to the pile idea says that the piles will be accommodated in the holes
provided in the bent cap and the remaining of the holes will be grouted by non shrink grout afterwards.
Since this connection is not monolithic the punching of the piles through the precast concrete cover must be
investigated. To simulate the worst situation, the friction between the pile and the bent cap provided by
grouting is neglected. Even under this assumption, 1 ft top thickness of the bent cap was found to be
adequate against punching according to equations per AASHTO for footing and slab without transverse
reinforcement. 9 in of minimum distance of piles to the edge of the bent cap, or to construction joints, 2.5 ft
of minimum pile spacing and 5 in of minimum precast concrete cover around the pile in the width direction
are also taken into consideration when calculating the punching cone with a 45 degree of inclination. The
concrete on top of the pile socket section was taken into consideration since the grout can be applied
through ducts in the precast body. The alternative to this application of grouting is to have a continuous
socket in the abutment body without any concrete over the pile and filing the socket completely with
concrete after erection of abutment providing the connection to the piles.
The decrease in the punching strength of the bent cap in the presence of cracks resulted from the shrinkage
of grout or concrete is also considered because of this reason. In this case, in addition to neglecting the
5 # 6 for negative moment
4 # 7 for positive moment
or 6 # 6 for solid parts
6 # 4 for shrinkage and temp
# 5 @ 4 “ for shear
36 in
30 in
24 in
grout frictional strength, the punching is thought to be carried by the transverse reinforcement in the precast
body over the pile socket alone ignoring the concrete. The equation of AASHTO for slabs and footings
with transverse reinforcement is used by replacing the concrete contribution by zero. As a result, although
the analysis is conservative, the transverse reinforcement area is increased in the top portion either by
adding more stirrups at the top or by placing the transverse reinforcement closer at the pile locations.

3. Modularizing the abutment

In the previous reports, module lengths are standardized with an upper weight limit of 40 k per each
module which is the weight that can be transported without special overweight permit required for
Wisconsin. In addition to this, module lengths in fixed length increments aimed to standardize the module
geometry. Although the repetitive use of forms for the sake of economy, precast company feedback was
that there are no major difficulties having forms in different lengths. In addition to this, using the modules
of the same length by dividing the abutment body into equal segments for each project itself can also be
considered. There are some limiting factors when deciding on the number of modules used such as number
of connections, number of castings and different molds, number of piles, weight of the modules and their
costs being reflected on the total cost. Together with these, casting large pieces thus decreasing the labor
work for erection and number of connections lower the construction cost.

Another parameter which has to be considered to decide on number of panels is the number of piles for
precast abutments. Number of piles which can be used in abutments are subject to restrictions such as
spacing requirements (maximum spacing of 8 ft, maximum edge distance of half of the spacing, minimum
spacing of 2.5 ft etc.), structural capacity requirements to be able to carry the design loads. In addition to
these each precast module must have two piles to provide stability thus to eliminate large load transfers at
precast joints and equal number of piles to provide uniformity and minimize the differential movements.
Therefore separating the abutment into more modules will result in extra piles than needed in some cases.
The issue was discussed with precast companies and as DOT engineers also agreed, the cost increase from
piles will be insignificant compared to the increase in cost due to overweight transportation and erection.
Therefore it was decided to add several piles when necessary according to number of modules determined.

5 # 6 for negative moment
4 # 7 for positive moment
or 6 # 6 for solid parts
6 # 4 for shrinkage and
# 5 /@ 3” for shear
36 in
30 in
24 in
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Number of vertical modules



Max weight limit
weight of modules NW
Weight of modules LW
Min number of piles
Mx number of piles
structural pile need

In the graph above, the increase in number of piles resulting from increasing number of modules is tried to
be shown for an example bridge. Horizontal joints can also be considered to decrease the weight without
increasing the pile number keeping in mind that this will add to the connection cost and duration. Although
another option suggested was utilizing light weight concrete (LW), another item which was noted at the
meeting with precast manufacturers was the lack of light weight concrete manufacturers in Wisconsin area
and difficulty of adapting this new material.

max transportable abutment module length vs span
(for ~ thickness=3ft)
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180
span length (ft)




5 ft high abutment
3 ft high abutment
10 ft high abutment

The feedback of precast companies implied that the overweight permit would be more expensive than
adding more connections and piles to the system by increasing the number of modules. While the
maximum transportable weight is limited to 40 k in Wisconsin, for some bridges with precast girders, the
40 k weight limit is already exceeded due to the heavy girders. With the graph above, the span lengths that
these precast girders span are shown and the length of the abutment thus approximately the bridge widths
using these abutments for different abutment heights were calculated setting the weight limit as the weight
of one girder which is higher than 40 k for most cases. This can be a tool to pick the module size according
to the cranes and transportation utilities that the contractors already have for girders for large projects
where 40 k limit is exceeded.