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Structural And Traffic Monitoring

Of An Interstate Bridge Using Optical Fiber Sensors


By Rola L. Idriss

Abstract
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A multiplexed Bragg Grating optical fiber monitoring system was designed and retrofitted to an in-
service interstate highway bridge. The structure is a two span continuous, composite steel girder bridge
with a reinforced concrete deck. A network of 64 sensors was used to measure the strain at several
locations in the bridge, with sensors bonded to the top, bottom flange and web of the girders. The
installed system was used for a dual purpose: structural evaluation as well as traffic monitoring. Vehicle
speed, vehicle count, and traffic statistics are extracted from the data. A fatigue analysis of the bridge is
performed.

Introduction

The I-10 Bridge over University Ave., in Las Cruces, New Mexico is a two span continuous composite
steel plate girder bridge with a concrete deck. Fatigue cracks were discovered in the girder webs, at the
diaphragm to girder connections due to out of plane induced bending stresses in the web. In the summer
of 1997, the bridge was retrofitted with a fiber optic monitoring system. The main objectives of the
project were an in depth fatigue evaluation of the structure, as well as monitoring of the traffic crossing
the bridge.

The system was set to collect strain data under regular traffic for a period of 72 days, from November of
1997 to January of 1998. Fig. 1 shows an overall view of the bridge.

Figure 1. I-10 bridge Overall View

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I-10 Traffic Direction

Span 6 Span 7

Main Street University Ave.


67’ – 0” 97’ – 7 5/8” 118’ – 6” 97’ – 7 5/8” 16’ – 3 ½” 2 @115’ – 9 1/8” 35’ – 7 ¾”
(20.422 m) (29.759 m) (36.119 m) (29.759 m) (4.966 m) (2 @35.284 m) (10.865 m)
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Figure 2: Elevation view of I-10 Bridge Over University Ave.

7
¾” (19.685 cm)

4’-6” 3 @ 8’- 4 9/16“ 7’- 8 5/8” 2 @ 8’- 3 ½” 2’-6”


(1.372 m) (3 @ 2.554 m) (2.353 m) (2 @ 2.527 m) (0.762 m)

Figure 3: Bridge Cross Section at Pier 5.

The girders in the study were labeled girder 1 to 7, girder one being the exterior girder in the fast lane.
The two continuous spans 6 &7 were monitored by installing sensors in span 6.

Sensor System

The Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) sensors used in the research are intrinsic sensors, i.e. sensing occurs
along the fiber itself, while the light remains guided through the fiber. The fiber optic intracore Bragg
grating is a segment of an optical fiber that has been internally modified by exposure to UV light so that
it reflects light at one wavelength. The sensor’s wavelength depends on the strain and temperature
imposed on the optical fiber at the location of the Bragg grating. Therefore, as the strain changes the
wavelength at which the light is reflected shifts. One major advantage of the FBG sensors is the ease
with which several can be multiplexed along a single optical fiber. Bragg gratings can be multiplexed
via their inherent wavelength encoded properties by writing several gratings in-line in a fiber at different
nominal Bragg wavelengths (Davis et al. 1995).

The fiber Bragg grating (FBG) instrumentation utilizing tunable fiber Fabry-Perot (FFP) filter used for
the I-10 bridge tests has the capability of interrogating up to 32 FBG sensors simultaneously, at 360 Hz
sampling rate. The system has a strain resolution of less than 1 µstrain. However, the actual minimum
detectable strain should be in the order of ~10 µstrains with consideration of noise from the electronic
system. During the normal operation of this system, a sensor in the bottom flange of girder 3 at mid-

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span is used as the trigger, with the threshold strain being 30 µstrains. The system would then measure
the response to the event 5 seconds before and 30 seconds after.

Sensor Layout

The monitoring system was installed in span 6 of the bridge. Three sections were monitored: the pier,
which is the location of large negative moment, the mid-span, location of large positive bending
moment, as well as the 1/8 span were retrofitted with a total of 64 sensors (Fig. 4). FBG sensors were
installed on the top flange, top web, and bottom flange. Fig. 5 shows a typical sensor installation.
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FBG Sensors

Figure 4: Layout of 64 FBG Sensors

FBG1
( T o p F la n g e )

FBG2
(U p p er W eb )

FBG3
( B o t t o m F la n g e )

Figure 5: Typical Sensor Installation

Fatigue Analysis

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The I-10 Bridge over University Ave. was built in 1971, and therefore had been in operation for 27
years. Calculations from available truck traffic data showed that the bridge had experienced a total of 17
million cycles. The bridge had already developed out-of-plane fatigue cracks at the time the monitoring
system was installed.

The New Mexico State University Bridge Inspection Office report showed that during the 1990
inspection, cracks were discovered in the webs near the top and bottom of the stiffeners, at the
diaphragms to girder connections (Fig. 6). At that time holes were drilled to stop the cracks. Due to the
fatigue cracking present in the structure, the I-10 Bridge was restricted to heavy traffic (trucks with a
load over 120,000 pounds), and all heavy traffic was rerouted. Follow up inspections showed that
drilling holes at the ends of the cracks had been effective in stopping the propagation of the cracks.
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The stress range was determined from the strain files collected under regular traffic, and it was
calculated as follows (Levario 1999):
S = Eε (1)
Sr = Smax – Smin (2)
Where:
E = Modulus of Elasticity (29000-ksi (199948-MPa) for steel)
ε = Strain from file
Miner’s Law is used to calculate the effective stress range.
Sre = (ΣαISri3)1/3 (3)
Where:
Sri = the ith stress range in the spectrum.
αI = the fraction of stress range of that magnitude.

Figure 6: Fatigue crack in girder 3 at the ½ span.

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The web’s histograms for each diaphragm to stiffener connection under investigation were
plotted. Fig. 7 shows the stress range histogram of girder three at mid span.
S tr e ss R a n g e (M P a )
0 3 .4 5 6 .8 9 1 0 .3 4 1 3 .7 9 1 7 .2 4 2 0 .6 8 2 4 .1 3 2 7 .5 8 3 1 .0 3 3 4 .4 7
25

20 ← E ffe c tiv e S tr e ss R a n g e = 1 .8 0 2 K si (1 2 .4 3 M P a )
Frequency of Cycles (%)

15
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10

0
0 0 .5 1 1 .5 2 2 .5 3 3 .5 4 4 .5 5
S tr e ss R a n g e (K si)

Figure 7: Stress Range Histogram for Girder Three at the ½ Span.

The FBG sensors were placed on the web near the stiffeners at the diaphragm to girder connections. This
detail is classified by AASHTO as detail C’ with a fatigue limit of 12.0-ksi (82.74-MPa) (AASHTO
1996). AASHTO describes this detail as a fillet-welded connection with welds normal to the direction of
stress. Previous research showed that three different situations could occur when comparing the
effective stress range to the constant amplitude fatigue limit in a fatigue evaluation (Fisher et. al 1982):
1. Effective Stress Range > Constant amplitude fatigue limit
2. Effective Stress Range < Constant amplitude fatigue limit
Maximum Stress Range > Constant amplitude fatigue limit
3. Effective Stress Range < Constant amplitude fatigue limit
Maximum Stress Range < Constant amplitude fatigue limit
If cases 1 or 2 are found, fatigue life has to be calculated, but if case 3 is found, no fatigue crack
propagation is expected.

The values for the effective stress range and the maximum stress range for each web showed no value
above the fatigue limit for this particular detail which is 12.0-ksi (82.7 MPa) (AASHTO 1996). The
maximum value for the effective stress range was 1.80 ksi (12.4 MPa) and 4.44 ksi (30.6 MPa) for the
maximum stress range in girder 3 at the mid span. The maximum stress range for this girder at this
location was about one third of the fatigue limit. This level of stress falls into case 3 and no fatigue
crack propagation is expected.

Traffic monitoring

When a vehicle crossed the bridge, the monitoring system recorded the event, the truck location, the
truck speed, and the structural response to the vehicle (Idriss et al. 1997)

Vehicle speed obtained by cross correlation method. A method of determining the vehicle’s speed,
using only the output of the FBG system, and not requiring additional triggering or timing circuits was
required. A correlation function defines the correlation between two parameters as a function of the
time at which the parameters are observed. If the two parameters are the same except for the time of
observation (x(t) and x(t+τ)), then the function is known as an auto correlation function. If the two

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parameters are physically distinct (x(t) and y(t+τ)), then the function is referred to as a cross correlation
function (Harris and Creed 1961).
The cross correlation function (xcorr), then, is
xcorr = x (t ) y (t + τ ) . (4)
Figure 8 shows a plot of a two damped sinusoids, with one of them displaced in time by 100 samples.
Cross Correlation
120

Original < 1551


100
Delayed by 100
S l

80
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60
Arbitrary Amplitude

40
< 986
20

< 426
0

< 704
-20

-40

-60 < 1268 <


0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800
Sample

Figure 8: Damped Sinusoids

This method may be used to extract time lag information for vehicles crossing the bridge. Fig. 9
shows how this method was applied to the strain data from two sensors on the bridge. If the time it
takes a vehicle to cross a particular section of the bridge is known, then the speed of the vehicle
may be calculated.
Raw Data Filtered Data
60
30

40 20

10
20

0
-10

-20 -20

-30
-40

-40

-60
10 12 14 16 10 12 14 16

Figure 9: Data Filtered to Calculate Cross Correlation

The vehicle speeds calculated via cross correlation were compared to the scheduled vehicle speed in a
controlled test, the data fell within a 5% tolerance band. The cross correlation method of determining
vehicle speeds seems to be viable.

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Using the cross correlation method, it is possible to create a distribution of vehicle speeds for the entire
data period (Fig. 10). Fig. 10 shows that the vehicle speeds are skewed toward 60 mph even though the
scheduled speed limit is 55 mph.
2000
VEHICLE SPEED DISTRIBUTION, Data Collected from Nov 14 1997 to Jan 25 1998

1800

1600

1400
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1200

1000
Count

800

600

400

200

0
5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90

Vehicle Speed MPH

Figure 10: Distribution of Speeds for 72 Days


Vehicle Count. Vehicle daily count was generated by the monitoring system for the 72 day monitoring
period, as shown in Fig.11.
DAILY Count of Vehicles, Girder 3, 1/2 Span, Bottom Flange Nov 14 1997 to Jan 25 1998
f s s m t w r f s s m t w r f s sm t w r f s s m t w r f s s m t w r f s sm t w r f s s m t w r f s s m t w r f s s m t w r f s s m t w r f s s
250

200

Thanksgiving New Years

150

?? Weather Christmas
100

50

0
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1 2 13 14 1 5 1 6 1 7 1 8 1 9 2 0 2 1 2 2 2 3 2 4 2 5 2 6 2 7 2 8 2 9 3 0 3 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 0 1 1 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Figure 11: Daily Count of Vehicles

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Conclusions and Recommendations

At this point of the research, the system readily gives information on traffic count, traffic speed, strain
distribution, and structural behavior. When a vehicle crossed the bridge, the monitoring system recorded
the event, the truck location, the truck speed, and the structural response to the vehicle.
Further research is needed in both the areas of equipment development, as well as data analysis and
processing:
• The sampling rate needs to be increased in the FBG system to detect vehicle axle counts and
spacing.
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• Algorithms need to be developed to detect axles and axle spacings


• Need to further understand and account for differences between the FE model and data acquired
during tests using the FBG system

Acknowledgment

This project is a collaborative project between New Mexico State University and the Naval Research
Laboratory. The sensors and data acquisition system used on the I-10 bridge were developed and
fabricated at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C.
It was supported by the National Science Foundation grant CMS-9457604, the New Mexico State
Highway and Transportation Department and the Federal Highway Administration.

References

1. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)


1996, "Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges." 16th Edition, Washington D.C.

2. Davis, M.A., Berkoff, ,T.A., And Kersey, A.D. “Serially Configured Matched Filter Interrogation
Technique for Bragg Grating Arrays”, Proc. Smart Sensing, Processing, and Instrumentation
Conference, SPIE vol. 2444.(1995).

3. Fisher, John W., Mertz, D. R., and Zhong, A. 1982, “Steel Bridge Members Under Variable
Amplitude Long Life Fatigue Loading” Report 267. National Cooperative Highway Research Program,
Transportation Research Board, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.

4. Harris and Creed, “Shock and Vibration Handbook”, Volume 2, Data Analysis, Testing, and Methods
of Control, McGraw Hill, 1961.

5. Idriss, R. L., Pate, J. W., and White, K. R. 1999, “Monitoring of the I-10 Bridge at University
Avenue in Las Cruces, New Mexico using a Fiber Optic Sensor System”. New Mexico State
University, Department of Civil Engineering, Report No. 1-99 to the New Mexico State Highway and
Transportation Department.

6. Levario, M., 1999, “ Analysis And Testing Of The I-10 Bridge Over University Avenue Using A
Fiber Optics Bragg Grating Monitoring System”, Master of Science in Civil Engineering Thesis,
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, August 1999

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Corresponding Author: Rola L. Idriss, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering Department, Box 3CE.
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-0001. Phone: 505-646-3818
Fax: 505-646-6049. e-mail: ridriss@nmsu.edu
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