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Structural Safety 23 (2001) 331344

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Reliability analysis of prestressed concrete bridge girders:


comparison of Eurocode, Spanish Norma IAP and
AASHTO LRFD
Andrzej S. Nowaka,*, Chan-Hee Parkb, Juan R. Casasc
a

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan, 2340 G.G. Brown Building,
2350 Hayward, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2125, USA
b
Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea
c
School of Civil Engineering, Technical University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain

Abstract
The objective of this paper is to compare the reliability level of prestressed concrete bridge girders
designed using three codes: Spanish Norma IAP-98 (1998), ENV 1991-3 Eurocode 1 (1994), and AASHTO
LRFD (1998). Typical precast girders used in Spain are considered. Load and resistance parameters are
treated as random variables. The statistical parameters are based on the available literature, test data and
load surveys. Reliability indices are calculated by iterations. The results indicate that Eurocode is more
conservative than the other two codes, and AASHTO LRFD is the most permissive code. # 2002 Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Girder bridge; Prestressed concrete; Design code; Reliability; Target reliability

1. Introduction
Recently, a considerable research eort has been devoted to bridge design and evaluation in
Europe and in North America. However, the work has been carried out independently according
to region-specic conditions. This study focuses on the comparison of the design codes for prestressed concrete bridge girders. The analysis is performed for typical Spanish bridge girders,
therefore, the considered codes are: Spanish Norma IAP-98 [1], Eurocode ENV 19913 [2], and
AASHTO LRFD [3].
Five prestressed concrete bridges are selected. The structures were designed with typical Spanish
precast concrete girders, presented in Fig. 1. Spans vary from 20 to 40 m and girder spacing varies
from 1.3 to 3.4 m as shown in Table 1. For comparison, three versions of the selected structures are
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-734-764-9299; fax: +1-734-764-4292.
E-mail address: nowak@engin.umich.edu (A.S. Nowak).
0167-4730/02/$ - see front matter # 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S0167-4730(02)00007-3

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Fig. 1. Prestressed concrete bridge girders considered in this study.

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Table 1
Selected prestressed concrete girder bridges
Bridge no.

Span (m)

Girder spacing (m)

Girder type

Number of girders

1
2
3
4
5

20
25
30
35
40

1.76
1.32
2.02
3.36
1.44

Leopardo
Pantera
Jabali
Rinoceronte
Bisonte

7
9
6
4
8

considered, with the load carrying capacity determined by the amount of prestressing strands
according to the three considered design codes.
The comparison criterion is structural reliability. Load and resistance are treated as random
variables. The statistical models are based on the available literature. Ultimate limit state of
exural capacity (bending moment) is considered in this study with the following limit state
function,
gRQ

where R=resistance, and Q=total load eect.


The total load is a sum of several components including,
QDLI

where D=dead load, L=live load, and I=dynamic load (impact).


It should be noted that the serviceability limit state (tension stress in concrete) usually governs
the design of prestressed concrete bridge girders.

2. Load model
The major load components for highway bridges are dead load, live load, dynamic load,
environmental loads (temperature, wind, earthquake), and other loads (collision, braking). In this
study, only the rst three are considered, The load models are based on the available statistical
data, surveys, inspection reports, and analytical simulations. The load variation is described by
cumulative distribution function (CDF), mean value or bias factor (ratio of mean to nominal
value), and coecient of variation.
Dead load is the gravity load due to the self weight of structural and non structural elements
permanently connected to the bridge. Three components are considered: D1=dead load due to
factory made elements (precast concrete), D2=dead load due to cast-in-place materials (concrete
slab), and D3=dead load due to asphalt overlay. All components of dead load are treated as
normal random variables. The bias factor (ratio of mean to nominal), l=1.03, and coecient of
variation, V=0.08, for D1, and l=1.05 and V=0.10 for D2 [4]. For asphalt wearing surface it is
assumed that the mean thickness is 80 mm and V=0.30 [4].

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Live load covers a range of forces produced by vehicles moving on the bridge. Truck surveys
indicate that it is strongly site-specic, from geographical region to region, and even within a
region. Both static and dynamic eects of live load are considered in this study. Eect of live load
depends on many parameters including the span length, truck weight, axle loads, axle conguration, position of the vehicle on the bridge (transverse and longitudinal), number of vehicles on the
bridge (multiple presence), girder spacing, and stiness of structural members.
There are considerable dierences in the design values of live load specied by the three codes
considered in this study. In the Spanish Code [1], the design live load consists of three axles of 200
kN each, superimposed with a uniform load of 4 kN/m2. The spacing of axles and wheels is
shown in Fig. 2. The design dynamic load is specied as equal to 15% of the static live load.
The design live load in Eurocode [2] is shown in Fig. 3. It is assumed that the specied live load
includes static and dynamic components.

Fig. 2. Design live load model specied in Spanish Code [1]. Concentrated forces are superimposed with a uniform
load of 4 kN/m2.

Fig. 3. Design live load specied by Eurocode [2]; Q=300 kN for Lane 1, Q=200 kN for Lane 2, Q=100 kN for Lane
3, and q=9 kN/m2 for Lane 1, q=2.5 kN/m2 for Lanes 2 and 3.

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AASHTO [3] species HL-93 loading which consists of a three axle truck superimposed with a
uniform lane load of 9.3 kN/m as shown in Fig. 4. Dynamic load is specied as 0.33 of the truck
load only, with no dynamic load applied to the lane load. AASHTO [3] also species the girder
distribution factor (GDF). For moments, GDF is a function of girder spacing, span length and
stiness of the girder,


    
S 0:6 S 0:2 Kg 0:1
GDF 0:075
2900
L
Lt3s

where S=girder spacing (mm), L=span length (mm), ts=thickness of slab (mm), and Kg=stiness parameter.
Lane moments due to live load and dynamic load were calculated for the considered three
codes, and each value was multiplied by the corresponding live load factor, which is 1.50 for the
Spanish Code [1] 1.35 for Eurocode [2] and 1.75 for AASHTO [3]. For comparison, the ratio of
factored lane moments is plotted in Fig. 5. The denominator is the factored lane load moment
specied by AASHTO [3].
The values of design live load moments per girder were also calculated according to the considered three codes and the results are shown in Table 5 together with dead load. Each value
corresponds to live load moment per lane (lane width is 3.6 m) and it is normalized by AASHTO
[3] design live load. The live load factors are included (1.35 for Eurocode [2], 1.50 for the Spanish
Code [1] and 1.75 for AASHTO [3].
The statistical model for live load was derived using the approach developed by Nowak [4],
Nowak and Hong [5], and Park et al. [6]. Extreme load eects are calculated for a one year period. The cumulative distribution function (CDF) of moments due to trucks in the survey can be
approximated by a normal distribution, in particular this applies to the upper tail of CDF [4].
Therefore, it is assumed that the mean maximum annual live load follows an extreme type I
(Gumbell) distribution. The truck data base was taken from the available literature and actual
eld surveys. The live load model in Spain is based on analytical simulations of the trac [7].
Two levels of trac density were considered, a high volume trac with an average daily truck
trac (ADTT) of 6000 trucks per day (two lanes and one direction) and a low volume trac with
ADTT of 2000 trucks per day. The live load model for AASHTO [3] was based on the truck
survey in Ontario, Canada [8]. The cumulative distribution functions (CDF) of the gross vehicle

Fig. 4. Live load specied by AASHTO [3], HL-93 loading.

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Fig. 5. Ratio of factored design live load moments per lane (including DLF) and AASHTO [3] moment, for lane
width=3.6 m.

weight (GVW) are shown in Fig. 6 for the Spanish and Ontario trac. The CDFs are plotted on
the normal probability paper. The vertical scale is the inverse standard normal distribution
function.
For each surveyed truck, the maximum lane moment was calculated using inuence lines, for
simple span bridges with spans from 2040 m. The CDF of moments were extrapolated to obtain
the statistical parameters (the means) of the maximum live load eect for extended periods of
time, as shown in Fig. 7 for Ontario trucks and in Fig. 8 for the Spanish trucks. The corresponding bias factors for the maximum annual lane moment are plotted in Fig. 9. The nominal
(design) live load is taken as specied by the AASHTO [3].
The uncertainty in bridge analysis and girder distribution factor is expressed in terms of a bias
factor, l, and coecient of variation, V. Field measurements indicate that the actual load distribution is more uniform than what can be analytically predicted [9,10]. For girder distribution
factors based on simplied methods [Eq. (3)], l=0.93 and V=0.12. For girder distribution
factors based on more sophisticated methods, (e.g. nite elements and grid analysis), l=0.98 and
V=0.07 [11]. Recent eld tests conrmed that the girder distribution factor can be treated as a
normal random variable [9,10].
The dynamic load, I, can be measured in terms of dynamic load factor (DLF), e.g. as the ratio
of dynamic strain and static strain (or deection). DLF is a function of three parameters: road
surface roughness, bridge dynamics and vehicle dynamics (suspension system). The statistical
parameters for the dynamic load model were derived analytically in [12], and then they were
conrmed by eld tests by [13] and [9]. It was observed that DLF decreases for heavy vehicles.
The mean DLF is 0.15 for a single truck and 0.10 for two side-by-side trucks. The standard
deviation of DLF is 0.08, therefore the coecient of variation is 0.80 [9,13].

A.S. Nowak et al. / Structural Safety 23 (2001) 331344

Fig. 6. CDF of gross vehicle weight.

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Fig. 7. CDFs of moment due to Ontario trucks/AASHTO [3] design moments and extrapolations.

Moments due to dead load components for the selected bridges are given in Table 2.

3. Resistance model
Resistance is a variable representing the load carrying capacity. It can be aected by uncertainties in strength of materials, dimensions and analysis. The type of distribution is based on
observed shape of CDFs for prestressing steel and concrete. Resistance is considered as a product

A.S. Nowak et al. / Structural Safety 23 (2001) 331344

339

Fig. 8. CDFs of moment due to Spanish Trucks/AASHTO [3] design moments and extrapolations.

of three factors representing strength of materials, dimensions and analysis, therefore, it is lognormally distributed [14]. For prestressed concrete girders, the statistical parameters were derived
by Nowak et al. [15], l=1.05 and V=0.075.
The minimum required resistance, Rmin, is dened by each design code, and, for given loads, D,
L and I, and load and resistance factors, it can be calculated from the design formula,
Rmin D L L I=

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Fig. 9. Bias factors for the moment per girder (including DLF) for the Ontario truck data and Spanish truck data, with
the nominal moment corresponding to AASHTO [3].
Table 2
Design dead load and live load moments per girder (kN m)
Bridge no.

1
2
3
4
5

D1

344
594
1478
2434
2979

D2

432
505
1113
2526
1410

D3

162
189
418
1000
531

L+I
Spanish

Eurocode

AASHTO

1162
1280
2230
4380
2610

1770
1890
3430
6313
3870

1124
1229
2057
3563
2345

where D is dead load factor, L is live load factor and  is resistance factor.
Values of load and resistance factors specied in the considered codes are given in Table 3. The
calculated Rmin, are shown in Table 4.

4. Reliability analysis
Reliability analysis is performed for prestressed concrete bridge girders designed according to
the considered codes. The reliability index, , is dened as a function of probability of failure, PF,
[16],

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Table 3
Load and resistance factors
Bridge no.

Spanish

Eurocode

AASHTO

D1
D1
D1
L


1.35
1.35
1.35
1.50
0.88

1.35
1.35
1.35
1.35
0.88

1.25
1.25
1.50
1.75
1.00

Bridge no.

Spanish

Eurocode

AASHTO

1
2
3
4
5

3420
4158
8417
16,609
11,997

4154
4875
9878
18,827
13,485

3180
3808
7465
13,935
10,387

Table 4
Minimum required resistance, Rmin

Fig. 10. Reliability indices for Ontario truck trac.

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Fig. 11. Reliability indices for Spanish truck trac.

Fig. 12. Reliability indices for region specic truck trac.

A.S. Nowak et al. / Structural Safety 23 (2001) 331344

  1 PF

343

where, 1 is inverse standard normal distribution function.


An iterative procedure is used calculate the reliability index as described by Rackwitz and
Fiessler [17] and Nowak [14]. Live load is the most site-specic variable. For comparison, the
computations were carried out for the live load models based on the Spanish data and Ontario
truck surveys.
The results obtained for the Ontario truck survey data are plotted in Fig. 10. The bias factor for
the maximum annual live load is taken from Fig. 9, with the coecient of variation of 0.18.
Reliability indices calculated using the maximum annual live load based on Spanish trac
simulations are shown in Fig. 11. The bias factor is also taken from Fig. 9.
Finally, reliability indices corresponding to the considered codes are plotted in Fig. 12, with
AASHTO [3]) live load model based on the Ontario data, and Spanish Code [1] and Eurocode [2]
based on the Spanish data.
As mentioned earlier, the serviceability limit states govern the design. Therefore, the actual
reliability indices for the ultimate limit states are considerably higher than calculated values.

5. Conclusions
The reliability analysis is performed for prestressed concrete bridge girders designed according
to three codes: Spanish Norma IAP-98 [1], Eurocode [2], and AASHTO [3]. The load and resistance parameters are treated as random variables, and the statistical parameters are taken from
the available literature, test data and survey results.
The calculated reliability indices vary considerably for the three considered codes. It is clear
that Eurocode [2] is the most conservative one, and AASHTO [3] is the most permissive code. The
actual =7.08.0 for Eurocode, =5.16.8 for Spanish Code [1], and =4.54.9 for AASHTO [3].
For the Eurocode [2] and Spanish Code [1], the largest values of b are for the span of 35 m, and
 decreases for shorter span lengths. AASHTO [3] provides the most uniform reliability level.

Acknowledgements
The research presented in this paper has been partially sponsored by the NATO Cooperative
Research Program which is gratefully acknowledged.
References
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Final draftAugust 1994.
[3] AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specications. American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Ocials, Washington, DC, 1998.

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