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An Analysis of Skewed Bridge/Vehicle Interaction

Using the Grillage Method

H. Zeng, J. Kuehn, J. Sun, H. Stalford

Center for Structural Control, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73072,,,

The 1998 Bridge Inventory classified approximately 68,000 of the 280,000
American highway bridges as substandard. One way to extend the useful service life of a
bridge is to reduce peak vehicle loads. Field tests conducted at Walnut Creek Bridge on
Interstate 35 near Purcell, Oklahoma revealed that it is common for vehicles to exert peak
dynamic loads 1.3-1.7 times their static weights on the bridge. The focus of this work is
to model the dynamic interaction between vehicles and the bridge to facilitate the
development of strategies aimed at reducing dynamic loads applied to the bridge.
Walnut Creek Bridge is a two-lane, four-span, continuous steel girder bridge with a
reinforced concrete deck. The bridge structure is modeled as an assembly of grillage
members, consisting of longitudinal and transverse torsion beams. The finite element
model includes 205 nodes and 425 elements. The vehicle used in the analysis is a
36,000kg tractor-trailer, which is the heaviest vehicle allowed on this bridge without a
permit. The vehicle model is a 7 degree-of-freedom planar representation that accounts
for both the heave and pitch. The equations of motion of the vehicle and the bridge are
treated as two subsystems and are solved separately using the fourth order Runge-Kutta
integration method in state space. The compatibility equations at the interface between
the vehicle tires and bridge deck are satisfied by an iterative procedure.
The simulation results are compared to experimental results obtained by using a
tractor-trailer for both quasi-static and dynamic tests. A response of a typical point of the
bridge has a peak error of 8.2% and an RMS error of 12.4% for the quasi-static case, and
a 17.6% peak error and a 24.5% RMS error for the dynamic case, respectively. The close
agreement between the simulations and experiments enables a study of the influence of
various parameters which contribute to the response of the interacted system.

The bridge/vehicle interaction problem has been the focus of research for more than
150 years. State-of-art reviews of related research are provided by Huang (1976), and
GangaRao (1984). In the past two decades, great improvements have been made in
modeling, methods, and experiment validation. Among the methods used, numerical
methods are dominant.
The grillage numerical method has gained an increased popularity in the static and
dynamic analysis of plate structures. By making use of a grillage discretization, the
flexural and torsional rigidities are determined to closely approximate a plate. West
(1973) reported a study, where 53 models and full-sized bridges were compared. The
work recommended the use of grillage analysis for slab and pseudo-slab bridge decks.
Tan et al. (1998) concluded that the accuracy, simplicity and speed of the grillage analog
make it the most suitable model for bridge analysis.

The presented paper treats the interaction problem between a stiffened skewed bridge
and vehicles. By using the grillage method, the bridge deck is modeled as an assembly of
torsion-beams, coupled with a vehicle having 7 Degrees of Freedom (DOF). An iterative
procedure is developed to satisfy the equilibrium conditions at the interface between the
vehicle and the bridge. A full-scale testing was conducted. The numerical solutions
obtained reasonably agree with test results.

Grillage Idealization for Bridge

A skewed bridge has a deck with a parallelogram shape (Fig. 1). A plate analog has
been considered by a number of researchers. However, the solutions by these methods,
with parallelogram shape and arbitrary support conditions, become tedious and
sometimes impossible. The grillage method, on the other hand, is less time consuming
and more efficient in such cases.
The bridge motion is composed of many modes, which can not be predicted by either
simple bending or torsion theory. Therefore, a torsion beam element is developed as a
grillage member. Such a torsion beam element is subjected to a transverse force
distribution and a torsional moment distribution. The nodes undergo not only planar
translational and rotational displacements, but also torsional displacements.
Correspondingly, there are transverse joint forces, bending moments and torsional
moments at each node. Ignoring the bridge damping, the governing equations of motion
for transverse and torsional vibration are:
∂ 4 w( x, t ) ∂ 2 w( x, t )
EI + ρ A = f ( x, t )
∂x 4 ∂x 2 (1)
∂ 2θ ( x, t ) ∂ 2θ ( x, t )
GJ + m ( x , t ) = I
∂x 2 ∂t 2

where w(x,t) and θ(x,t) are the transverse and torsional displacement, EI and GJ are the
flexural and torsional rigidity , ρ and A are the mass density and the cross section area, I0
is the mass moment of inertia per unit length, and f(x,t) and m(x,t) are the external
transverse force (including bending moment) and torsional moment per unit length,
applied at the nodes.
The effective flexural or torsional rigidity of a grillage element is equivalent to the
corresponding rigidity of the strip of the plate,
EI = bD, D = Eh3/12(1-v2), GJ = bD,
where h is the thickness of the plate, v is the Poisson ratio, and b is the width of a strip of
the plate.
It is noted that the stiffeners are not necessarily perpendicular to the girders. But for
the oblique case, the coordinate transformation can be handily employed to obtain the
element stiffness and mass matrices in the global coordinate.
The deck is idealized as a grillage, with all the girders and diaphrams coinciding with
certain torsion beam members. Close spacing between grillage members provides
accurate results, but increases computational effort. The optimum assembly results from a
compromise between accuracy, simplicity and efficiency. The grillage assembly for the
bridge structure is shown in Fig. 1. The abutments and the intermediate supports are
assumed to be simple point supports.
Following the general procedure used in finite element analysis, equations for the
discrete bridge structure motion are formulated as:

[M B ]{w&&} + [K B ]{w} = {FBT } (2)
where [MB] and [KB] are the mass and stiffness matrices, respectively, {w} is the
generalized bridge displacement vector, containing transverse and torsional
displacements, and {FBT} is the generalized interactive force vector.
38' (11.6m)

100' (30.5m)
400' (122m)

Fig. 1 Grilliage Representation of Bridge

Vehicle Dynamics
Researchers have developed various models to present the traffic excitation. A planar
model with 7 DOF (Fig. 2) is employed in the present work. The equations of motion can
be derived relative to the static equilibrium positions and are expressed in the matrix form
[M T ]{&z&} + [CT ]{z&} + [K T ]{z} = [DT ]{Rd } (3)
where [MT], [CT] and [KT] are mass, damping and stiffness matrices of the vehicle,
respectively, {z} is the generalized displacement vector, consisting of the heave and pitch
DOF, {Rd} is the road/bridge deck surface profile vector, the number of whose non zero
elements are equal to the number of points in contact with the bridge, [DT] is the mapping
matrix consisting of the tire stiffness.

m6, J6
m5, J5 z6

K5 C5 K6 C7 K8 C8
z1 z2 z3 z4
m1 m2 m3 m4
K1 C1 K2 C3 K4 C4
r2 K3 r3 r4

Fig. 2 Vehicle Model

Bridge/Vehicle Coupling
The vehicle and the bridge interact through the tire forces imposed on the bridge
deck. Considering the hth axle or tire coupling with bridge, assuming the vertical tire
force FVh affects the local nodes i, j, p, q, in the vicinity of the tire contact point Vh (Fig.
3), the interactive force at any contact point can be expressed as:
FVh = − K h [z h − (rVh − wVh )] (4)
with the subscript h denoting the tire, Kh and zh being the stiffness and the DOF of the hth
tire, rVh being road surface profile at Vh, and wVh the deflection of the contact point Vh,
which can be expressed as:

wVh = ∑ φ k (x , y )wk (k = i, j , p, q ) (5)
where x = vt − x j ; y = y j ; and φk are weighing factors.
The equivalent node force induced by the interactive force can be expressed as:
Fk = ψ k ( x , y )FVh (6)
where ψ k are mapping factors.
Substitution of Eqs. (4) and (5) into Eq. (6) yields:
Fk = − K hψ k ( x , y )z h + K hψ k (x , y )rVh − K hψ k ( x , y ) ∑ φ a ( x , y )wa (7)
a = i , j , p ,q

Combining Eqs. (2), (3) and (7), the general equations of the coupled bridge/vehicle
system can be written as:
[M c ]{W&& }+ [C c ]{W& }+ [K c ]{W } = [Dc ]{Rd } (8)
where {W} is the generalized displacement vector, consisting of both the bridge and
vehicle DOF, Mc, Cc and Kc are mass, damping and stiffness matrices of the coupled
system. It is noted that submatrices of Kc and Dc vary as functions of both time and
position of the contact points.

y FVh
i q

Vh (x, y)
j x

Fig. 3 Coupling Illustration

Numerical Analysis of an Existing Bridge

As the bridge/vehicle coupling is concerned, it is almost impossible to find a closed
form solution. It only can be solved using numerical methods, or combined numerical
and analytical methods (Veletsos and Huang, 1970; Green and Cebon, 1994, Yang and
Fonder, 1996). An iterative procedure is carried out to achieve the geometric
compatibility conditions and equilibrium conditions for the interactive force at the
interface between the bridge and vehicle at every integral time step.
The Walnut Creek Bridge is located on Interstate 35 Highway near Purcell,
Oklahoma (Fig. 1). The 400ft (122m) long bridge has three intermediate piers and two
abutments located at 100ft (30.5m) intervals. The bridge deck is skewed at 45o to the
centerline of the roadway. The deck is 38ft (11.6m) wide, including two 12ft (3.7m) wide
lanes with traffic running north. The reinforced concrete deck is mounted on five
continuous steel girders. The girders are stiffened by diaphragms that are perpendicular to
the longitudinal centerline of the bridge.
The test vehicle (Fig. 2) is a so-called rock truck with gross weight of 80,000lb
(17,600kg), provided by Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT). Quasi-static
tests at 5mph (2.25m/s) and dynamic tests at the posted speed of 65mph (29.2m/s) were
A typical dynamic validation result is shown in Fig. 4. The response is shown at the
central girder of the third span (Fig. 1). The simulated system provides a good estimate of
the peak stress in the girder caused by the vehicle.

The stresses were used to evaluate the Dynamic Amplification Factor (DAF) for the
mid-span points, where DAF is defined as the ratio of the maximum pure dynamic stress
to the maximum static stress. The DAF from test data, with the DAF calculated from the
grillage method, are given in Table 1. It shows that most of the DAF are within the
expected limits assumed by NCHRP 299, but the DAF at the western girder are much
higher. The peak error and RMS (root-mean-square) error are listed in Table 2 for the
quasi-static case, and in Table 3 for the dynamic case.
x 10


1 test
Stress (Pa)



0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4
Time (s)

Fig. 4 Comparison between Simulation and Test

Table 1. DAF (Test/Simulation)

Locations Span I Span II Span III Span IV
Central Girder 0.13/0.16 0.49/0.31 0.24/0.21 0.41/0.52
Eastern Girder 0.37/0.42 0.43/0.56 0.15/0.22 0.44/0.51
Western Girder -*/1.56 1.38/1.64 1.15/1.43 2.05/1.94
* Not available

Table 2. Static Peak error / RMS error (%)

Locations Span I Span II Span III Span IV
Central Girder 8.3/0.6 4.1/4.2 0.9/18.3 9.8/45.7
Eastern Girder 2.9/18.8 31.1/29.9 8.2/12.4 22.1/18.4
Western Girder - 14.1/49.9 21.3/51.2 12.2/38.4

Table 3. Dynamic Peak error / RMS error (%)

Locations Span I Span II Span III Span IV
Central Girder 21.5/14.6 6.6/4.3 5.9/10.7 3.1/17.8
Eastern Girder 23.9/12.1 25.4/26.6 17.6/24.5 20.0/24.6
Western Girder - 12.9/32.8 12.1/11.4 13.7/32.4

Discussion and Conclusions

A coupled system is developed for analyzing the interaction between a heavy vehicle
and a highway bridge. The bridge is idealized as an assembly of grillage members of
torsion beams. The vehicle is modeled as a 7 DOF planar system. The coupling results in
a set of 2nd order ordinary differential equations, which is solved by a numerical
procedure. The comparison between numerical results and experimental results gives

reasonably good agreement. The procedure can be used to analyze the response of the
coupled bridge/vehicle system for any number of spans, girders and tractor-trailer type
vehicles with any axle configuration, as well as to exam the effects of vehicle suspension,
straight or curved traveling paths, pavement surface irregularities etc., besides the effect
of the vehicle speed, spacing, and weight.

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