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Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109

Load tests and modal analysis of bridges

L. Fryba *, M. Pirner
Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prosecka 76, CZ-190 00 Prague 9, Czech Republic

Received 7 February 1998; accepted 17 July 1999


This paper describes the static, dynamic and long-term tests of bridges in situ, which have been performed in the Czech and
Slovak Republics since 1968. The standard methods are supplemented with the criteria for the elastic and permanent deformations,
natural frequencies and the dynamic impact factors. The monitoring of stresses under usual traffic loads provides important data
for the fatigue of bridges, for the estimation of their residual life and for the determination of inspection intervals. Modal analysis
and identification ascertain the characteristic properties of bridges from their response. The damage in bridges may be reflected in
the changes of their natural frequencies or modes of natural vibration. 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd and Civil-Comp Ltd. All
rights reserved.

1. Introduction to the first three versions of the standard [1], they were
obligatory for new bridges with spans greater than 18 m.
Load tests of bridges in situ are an important pro- Before testing, a programme is put together where the
cedure for checking the quality of structures. They make testing institute suggests the load (in accordance with
it possible to compare the theoretical assumptions with the designer), its distribution, the measured points, the
the actual behaviour of the bridge subjected to the test experimental method and other necessary data.
load. In this way they contribute to progress in civil Just before the tests, the bridge is inspected and sur-
engineering theory and practice. veyed by geodetic methods.
Being aware of the importance of bridges as structures During a static test it is obligatory to measure the ver-
serving public transport and being willing to contribute tical deflections at the points where the greatest effects
to better knowledge of their behaviour under load we are expected (in the middle of spans, in the quarter of
have standardized the load tests in situ in the Czech and arches etc.), the settlements of supports and the squeeze
Slovak Republics [1]. The first edition of the standard of bearings. It is recommended that measurements are
[1] was introduced in the year 1968 and revised in 1979, made of the temperature of the ambient air and of the
1990 and 1996. Several hundreds of both highway and structure, its strains and stresses, the deformations of
railway bridges of larger spans have been tested in the other parts of the structure, the development of cracks
past 30 years according to the standard [1]. The purpose and the stability of compressed elements of the bridge.
of the present paper is to describe the static, dynamic The basic data must be recorded, including: date of
and long-term tests of bridges, to submit our experience the test, weather conditions, experimental devices and
for discussion and to present the recent achievements in their sensitivity, mass of the loads and their dimensions
this field. and the test sequence.
The heavy vehicles usually applied for loading
2. Static tests include: locomotives, wagons, rail cranes, etc. for rail-
way bridges, and trucks, track vehicles, building
Static tests are carried out if demanded by government machines, water cisterns, etc. for highway bridges. The
authorities or by the designer of the bridge. According intention is to load the bridge by the heaviest load poss-
ible. Its efficiency is described by the equation
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +42-0246-1634; fax: +42-288-4634.
E-mail address: (L. Fryba). UNkUV (1)

0141-0296/01/$ - see front matter 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd and Civil-Comp Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 1 4 1 - 0 2 9 6 ( 0 0 ) 0 0 0 2 6 - 2
L. Fryba, M. Pirner / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109 103

where UN is the effect of the test load, UV is the effect of the width of cracks is limited for concrete bridges,
the standard load including the standard dynamic impact see Table 2.
factor, and k is the efficiency factor. For a static test it
should hold that Condition (5) may be modified for new bridges: if the
effects of the first loading comply with the condition
0.5kstat1.0. (2)
The static loads are so arranged on the bridge as to cause a1 a (6)
the greatest effects at measured points. Stot 2
The dead and long-term loads should be allowed to then the loading can be repeated, but the condition of
act on the bridge before the test, at least 72 h on concrete permanent deformation is now
bridges and 3 h on steel bridges. Concrete bridges may
be tested at least 3 months after the casting of their Sr
a . (7)
main parts. Stot 3
The minimum loading time is 30 min on concrete
bridges and 15 min on steel bridges. The measured data If condition (7) is not fulfilled, the loading may be
are recorded at least twice before loading, immediately repeated once more. Then, of course:
after loading, then at 10-min intervals (maximum), just
after unloading and at the same interval up to stabiliz- S r a1
. (8)
ation. The loading is usually repeated twice. Stot 6
The time rules mentioned above have been developed
from our experience because only a limited time period
In case the measured values do not correspond with
has been at our disposal for the load test. The rules are
the criteria (4) to (8), a special investigation and/or long-
a compromise between the scientific requirements and
term observation and/or dynamic tests are necessary. In
the practical possibilities.
any case, the decisive value provides the vertical down-
After the static test the total Stot, permanent Sr and
ward deflection at the midspan of the bridge or at the
elastic components Se of all measured values are calcu-
quarter-span of an arch.
lated, where the following relation is valid
StotSrSe. (3)
3. Dynamic tests
The first loading gives the decisive values for the evalu-
Dynamic tests are usually carried out on bridges of
The tested bridge satisfies the standard [1] if the fol-
large spans, unusual structural systems or new materials.
lowing three conditions are fulfilled (for the coefficients
The first three versions of the standard [1] prescribed the
a, ai, b see Table 1):
dynamic tests for bridges with spans greater than 50 m.
Before testing the levelling of rails or the road pave-
the condition of elastic deformation (Scal is the calcu-
ment in front of, on and beyond the bridge is necessary.
lated value)
The dynamic response at important points of the struc-
Se ture, speed of vehicles or input characteristics of other
b a (4) loads are recorded during the test. Further, it is rec-
ommended that measurements are made of the strain
or stresstime history at other points, the horizontal
the condition of permanent deformation
Sr Table 2
a (5) Width of cracksa
Stot 1
Bridge Environment class Crack width (mm)

Reinforced 1 0.4
2, 3 0.3
Table 1 4, 5 max 0.1
Coefficients a, ai, b Partially prestressed 1 0.2
2, 3 0.1 (6)
Bridge a a1 a2 a3 b 0 (7)
4, 5 0
Prestressed 1.05 0.2 0.5 0.1 0.7 Full prestressed any 0
Reinforced 1.10 0.25 0.5 0.125 0.6
Steel 1.05 0.1 0.3 0.05 0.8 1 dry, 2, 3 humid, 4, 5 aggressive, (6) post-stressing,
(7) prestressing.
104 L. Fryba, M. Pirner / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109

where dobs is the measured dynamic impact factor (10),

d is the standard dynamic impact factor, kdyn=Udyn/U,
Udyn is the response to the test load, and U is the
response to the standard load (without d) at the measured
point. A minimum of 10 runs of railway vehicles is
Fig. 1. Standard track irregularity for dynamic tests of highway demanded from which 90% values of dobs must fulfil
bridges. condition (12).
After both static and dynamic tests have been carried
transverse response at the midspan, horizontal longitudi- out, a report is written giving a critical assessment of the
nal movements of the bearings and the temperature. data recorded and recommendations to the authorities.
For loading we used: railway or highway vehicles or
a group of vehicles moving at a constant speed along
the bridge (the test begins at 5 km/h and the speed 4. Monitoring
increases up to the highest possible), an exciter with a
varying frequency (for modal analysis), a rocket motor Most highway and railway bridges are subjected to
which gives a controlled impulse, a standard track irregular traffic loads that are more or less of random
irregularity (Fig. 1) or a group of pedestrians in the case character and may be idealized by a stochastic process
of foot bridges. It is recommended that the static test is randomly variable in space and time [2]. As the life of
carried out before dynamic loading. bridges is long (80120 years), knowledge of the recent,
For dynamic tests, the efficiency, which appears on current and expected strengths of bridges is very
the right-hand side of Eq. (1), must fulfil the condition important for the estimation of their fatigue life, mainte-
dkdyn1. (9) nance, inspection intervals, etc.
The problem is very important, especially for steel
The dynamic test provides the natural frequencies, the bridges where it was found [3] that the stress ranges
forms of free and forced vibration, the deflection or
stresstime histories, the damping characteristics (e.g. ssmaxsmin (13)
logarithmic decrement of damping) and the observed
are the deciding factors for the extent of fatigue. Here:
dynamic impact factor
smax and smin are the local stress maximum or mini-
Smax mum, respectively.
dobs (10) During long-term tests the stresses are recorded
(monitored) under usual traffic loads in the course of a
where Smax is the maximum dynamic response due to the day, a week or a year and the stress ranges (13) are
load at the measured point, and Sm is the maximum static evaluated using the rain-flow method [4]. Thus, the
response due to the same load at the same point. stochastic stresstime histories are transformed into sim-
The bridge complies with standard [1] if the devi- ple stress ranges (two stress ranges=one stress cycle).
ations of the natural frequencies f(j) The counting method results in a histogram of frequency
f(j)teorf(j)obs of stress ranges called a stress spectrum. An example is
(j) 100 (11) shown in Fig. 2.
The stress spectra possess the following properties
are lower than the figures in Table 3. The indices in Eq. (for details see [5]):
(11) are defined as: j the jth natural frequency, teor
the calculated and obs the measured frequency. both static and dynamic components of the bridge
For foot bridges, the standard ISO 2631-2 must also response are included;
be fulfilled. a great number of cycles of small stress ranges
The railway authorities demand the fulfilment of the appears (dynamic components), while the large stress
condition ranges are rare (static components);
(dobs1)kdynd1 (12) the stress spectra depend on the intensity and compo-
sition of traffic flow, on the shape and length of the
Table 3 influence line of the investigated bridge element;
Deviations in the natural frequencies they do not depend on any hypothesis of fatigue dam-
age nor on the Wohler curve;
Frequency f(1) f(2) f(3) f(4) f(5) the spectra possess large dispersions.
(j) (%) +5 to +10 to 15 20 25
15 15 The statistical evaluation of monitoring on five steel rail-
way and three highway bridges provided an empirical
L. Fryba, M. Pirner / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109 105

for railway bridges:

a17.742, b0.860, c0.354, d4.464 (16)
s1.323, k1.65

The obtained statistical data may be applied to the

fatigue design of bridges, to the estimation of their
fatigue life and to the determination of inspection inter-
vals, see [5].
Fig. 3 shows another case of monitoring of the vertical
deflection of a prestressed ribbon footbridge of 78 m
span [6]. The bridge was loaded by pedestrians moving
at two speeds, viz 1.61 and 1.72 m/s, respectively. The
mean values of the deflections at midspan are presented
in Fig. 3.
An intensive vibration of columns of a steel arch
bridge spanning 330 m was observed after its construc-
tion (Fig. 4). The vibration was caused by the wind in
the 510 m/s velocity range. Therefore, the tallest col-
umns were filled with gravel which reduced their first
natural frequencies and returned them to lower fre-

Fig. 2. A sample of a stress spectrum measured on a cross beam

(l=5.65 m) of a steel railway bridge, span 35 m, during the passage
of a mixed freight train of weight 7420 kN, speed 38.5 km/h.

formula for the number ni of stress ranges in the ith class

per year:
niaT bLcldiexpks (14)
where T is the number of heavy vehicles per 24 h
(divided by 500) for highway bridges, or the mass of all
trains on the given line per year for railway bridges (in
millions of tonnes); L is the length of the influence line
of the investigated bridge element (in metres);
li=si/ss=0.1, 0.2, , 0.9, 1 is the dimensionless
stress range; ss is the greatest stress range in the inves-
tigated element due to the standard load multiplied by
the standard dynamic impact factor; a, b, c, d are
regression coefficients (see (15) and (16)); s is the stan-
dard deviation of the measured data (see (15) and (16));
k=1.65 is the coefficient ascertaining 95% reliability.
From the experiments, the following data has been

for highway bridges:

a13.099, b1.000, c0.461, d5.208 (15) Fig. 3. Prestressed ribbon footbridge, dynamic displacements at the
passing of pedestrians: (a) first passing (rate of walking 1.61 m/s, pace
s0.930, k1.65 frequency 2.0 Hz), (b) second passing (rate of walking 1.72 m/s, pace
frequency 2.2 Hz); v0 is the deflection at the midspan and f is the
measured frequency.
106 L. Fryba, M. Pirner / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109

nize the changes in natural frequencies [9,10]. We shall

show the influence of defects on natural vibration modes.
The method most frequently used for the determi-
nation of conformity between natural frequency modes
of two states of the structure is the Modal Assurance
Criterion (MAC) determined by the relation
MACi T (17)
where viv is the ith natural vibration mode of the struc-
ture in the first state, and vid is the ith natural vibration
mode in the second state. Consequently, the MAC is
intended for a comparison of vibration modes and is suit-
able in the cases when natural frequencies of various
Fig. 4. Steel highway bridge of span 330 m, natural frequencies of
columns and bridge deck.
vibration modes are very close to each other. As the
MAC informs us about the conformity of natural
vibration modes between two states or between the
quencies outside the range of critical wind velocities undamaged and the damaged structure and does not take
together with increased damping. Fig. 5 shows the into account local deviations of displacements, we have
results after 1 day of monitoring. The amplitudes v0 of used another criterion, the so-called Coordinate Modal
vibration in the centre of the column were measured and Assurance Criterion (COMAC), which is expressed by
plotted against the wind speed v [7]. the relation

5. Modal analysis and identification


viv(j)vid(j) 2



Although the idea of nondestructive verification of viv(j)viv(j) vid(j)vid(j)

structures by means of modal analysis is old [8], its i1 i1

application to big engineering structures has not been where viv(j) is the displacement of the ith vibration mode
developed until recently. This method is able to recog- of the first (virgin) state of the structure at point j, vid(j) is
the displacement of the ith vibration mode of the second
(damaged) state of the structure at point j, and N is the
number of excited vibration modes.
If the COMAC value is equal to one, then no differ-
ence appears between the deflection coordinates in the
first (virgin) state and the second (damaged) state. The
lower COMAC values signify the differences in coordi-
nates and, thus, possible damage. The COMAC method
has been applied to the identification of imperfections,
damage or cracks at the Institute of Theoretical and
Applied Mechanics of the Academy of Sciences of the
Czech Republic in Prague.
The COMAC method was used for checking the qual-
ity of a three-span prestressed concrete segment bridge
across a motorway, see Fig. 6. The length of the bridge
is 64.4 m.
The left superstructure crashed by sliding spon-
taneously off its bearings. This movement caused defor-
mation and opening of most joints between segments.
After the structure had been lifted back on its bearings
and the cracks sealed, both the damaged (left) and
undamaged (right) superstructures were subjected to
static and dynamic loading tests. The purpose of the tests
was to verify whether the repaired left superstructure
Fig. 5. Amplitudes of vibration of columns of the bridge shown in was comparable with the unimpaired right superstruc-
Fig. 4 due to the wind at speeds v. ture.
L. Fryba, M. Pirner / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109 107

Fig. 6. The cross-section of one of the bridges and a plan view of both structures together with movements of the bearings.

Fig. 7. The first four excited modes of the left- and right-hand side structures shown in Fig. 6.
108 L. Fryba, M. Pirner / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109

Table 4 much from the right one and, consequently, that the
COMAC values for the bridge at points j of the mesh 14 and m to M repair of the crashed structure was well done.
Mesh 1 2 3 4 Another example concerns a 14-year-old prestressed
concrete footbridge (Fig. 8). The principal aim of the
m 0.9997 1.0000 0.9999 1.0000 dynamic tests was to verify the sensitivity and reliability
l 0.9995 0.9999 0.9999 0.9997 of the footbridge after 14 years of traffic. At that time,
only the natural frequencies (not natural vibration
k 0.9993 1.0000 0.9999 0.9999
modes) were measured and, therefore, the present natural
j 0.9982 1.0000 0.9997 0.9994 frequencies were used to compare the two states of the
i 0.9500 0.9990 0.9998 0.9996 structure. An electrodynamic exciter at point L1 or K1
h 0.9721 0.9844 0.9969 0.9474 (Fig. 9) was applied to provide the forced (or natural)
g 0.9998 0.9998 1.0000 1.0000 modes and natural frequencies. Fig. 9 shows five natural
f 0.9994 0.9997 0.9998 0.9999
e 0.9992 0.9996 0.9997 0.9999 modes and frequencies.
d 0.9994 0.9997 0.9999 0.9999 A comparison of natural frequencies before and after
c 0.9999 0.9999 1.0000 1.0000 14 years is presented in Table 5 together with the calcu-
b 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 lated results. Table 5 shows that the structure does not
differ much from the virgin state 14 years ago. The small
A 0.9999 0.9999 1.0000 1.0000
differences may be explained by the different frequency
B 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 steps of the applied analyzers (Bruel-Kjaer in the year
C 0.9999 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 1983 and Onosoki in the year 1997). The maximum error
D 0.9998 0.9999 0.9999 1.0000 in frequency measurements could be expected to be
E 0.9997 0.9999 1.0000 1.0000 within the range of 1% in both cases.
F 0.9995 0.9999 0.9999 1.0000
G 0.9998 1.0000 1.0000 0.9998
H 0.9653 0.9946 0.9979 0.6679
I 0.9866 0.9995 0.9999 0.9997 6. Conclusions
J 0.9980 0.9998 1.0000 0.9997

K 0.9995 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000

The load tests of bridges in situ verify the real behav-
iour of structures and, consequently, are a valuable
L 0.9990 0.9999 1.000 0.9999 source of knowledge. They contribute to the progress in
M 0.9994 0.9999 0.9999 1.0000 both theory and practice of civil engineering.
The vertical deflection provides decisive values for
static tests, while the comparison of calculated and mea-
The static load test proved that the vertical deflections sured natural frequencies is recommended after dynamic
of both superstructures are similar, with an error of tests. The necessary criteria are also suggested in this
5.4%. The first four vibration modes of both left and paper.
right superstructures produced by the vibration exciter The long-term experiments (monitoring) provide the
are shown in Fig. 7. The resulting error in the measured data for fatigue assessment and for the estimation of
amplitude was 5%. inspection intervals. They enable us to observe the
If the COMAC method is used for the comparison of deterioration of the structure after long-term use.
the left and right superstructures, the values in Table 4 The modal analysis together with identification may
are obtained. The table shows boxed COMAC values distinguish both the virgin and damaged states of struc-
pertaining to midspan points of the three spans. It is clear tures and the COMAC method can be recommended for
from Table 4 that the left superstructure does not differ use in practice. The more the COMAC value differs

Fig. 8. Prestressed concrete footbridge, total length 261.20 m.

L. Fryba, M. Pirner / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 102109 109

Fig. 9. The first five modes and frequencies of natural vibration of the footbridge shown in Fig. 8.

Table 5 Acknowledgements
Measured and calculated natural frequencies (Hz) of the footbridge
depicted in Fig. 8
The support of grants 103/97/0139, 103/96/K034 and
Measured in the Measured in the Calculated, Calculated, 103/98/1479 of the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic
year 1983 year 1997 deformation finite element is gratefully acknowledged.
method method

0.500 0.525 0.457 0.514

0.600 0.650 0.568 0.646
0.900 0.925 0.920 1.091 References
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