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Masahiro SHIRATO∗ , Jiro FUKUI† , and Junichi KOSEKI‡


Ductility design of foundations of abutments against severe earthquakes has been

newly introduced in the Specifications for Highway Bridges in Japan. This paper describes
the summary of the ductility design method as well as its background. One of the features
of this method is the adoption of a new procedure to evaluate seismic active earth pressure
that is applicable up to high seismic loads based on the modified Mononobe-Okabe method.
We also conduct back-analyses of the case histories of abutments including foundations
damaged in the past earthquakes following the ductility design method proposed here. The
results from the back-analyses confirm the applicability of the ductility design method.


Right after the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake (Kobe earthquake) in Japan, the
Specifications for Highway Bridges and commentaries were revised in 1996[1, 2]. The
specification has introduced ductility design of foundations of piers as standard seismic
design against severe and rare scale earthquakes. It should be noted that the aseismic design
of piers based on the ductility design itself was not new, but had been already introduced
before the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake against large earthquakes which correspond
to type I motions of level 2 earthquake motions defined in detail later.

Nevertheless, abutments and their foundations have been exception in applying the
ductility design even in the 1996 version of the specification, and the specification still
required to check that they behave elastically against level 1 earthquake motions which are
small to middle (or frequent scale) earthquakes as it had demanded in the past. The reasons
for this judgment are the following. First, because of the lack of knowledge on a proper
evaluation method of their performances, including the seismic active earth pressure at high
seismic loads, it is difficult to establish any verification methods of seismic performance of
abutments and their foundations against severe earthquakes. Second, there has been no case
history in Japan where the damage to abutments or their foundations causes unseating of
girders. Third, a bridge abutment is a structure resisting against the earth pressure exerted
from the backfill at any moment, and thus it would be just pushed forward by the seismic

Research Engineer, Foundation Engineering Research Team, Public Works Research Institute

Team Leader, ditto.

Associate Professor, Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo
earth pressure even if it suffers residual displacements during earthquakes, which would
not directly result in the unseating of supporting girders.

However it is needed to develop an aseismic design method of abutments and their

foundations against large earthquakes, which controls their damage within an acceptable
extent to recover the service of road network as early as possible after the earthquakes.
After publishing our 1996 version of the specifications, we have constructed a database of
past earthquake damage to abutments or abutment foundations in Japan, and have studied
on the assessment methods which can distinguish the different damage extents for the case
histories in our database. Separately, Koseki et al.[4] have recently proposed an evalua-
tion method of active earth pressure at high seismic loads, and it enabled us to establish
a computational method to assess seismic performance of abutment foundations. Conse-
quently, we could newly introduce the ductility design of abutment foundations into the
latest version of the Specifications for Highway Bridges revised in March 2002. The de-
sign method is based on the preceding frame work of the ductility design method of bridge
pier foundations, while some modifications are implemented to it in order to reflect the
above-mentioned peculiar mechanical characteristics of foundations of abutments. This
paper describes the verification procedure and the process of the development of the new
ductility design method of foundations of abutments.

Fundamentals of seismic design of abutments and their foundations

A two stage aseismic design procedure is applied on the basis of the combinations
of the level 1 and level 2 earthquake motions and corresponding requirements of struc-
tural performance. The level 1 earthquake motions are likely to strike a structure once or
twice during the expected service period of the structure. Their peak amplitudes are small
to medium, and are around 0.2 G at the ground surface. On the other hand, the level 2
earthquake motions are extremely strong, but very unlikely to strike a structure during its
service period. The level 2 earthquake motions include two types of motions. One is called
‘type I’ motions which are generated at plate boundaries in the ocean. Their peak ampli-
tudes at the ground level are smaller than the other one although the type I motions have
longer durations. Their peak amplitudes are about 0.3 G to 0.4 G at the ground surface.
The other motions are inland strike type motions called ‘type II’ which are produced by a
fault located near the site; for example the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake is catego-
rized in this type. The type II motions have high intensities but short duration. Their peak
amplitudes are set at 0.6 G to 0.8 G at the ground surface, based on the acceleration records
on the ground surface observed in the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake.

In the new aseismic design procedure, all abutments and their foundations are veri-
fied against the level 1 earthquake motions so that they would cause no structural damage.
The abutment and its foundation shall remain in the elastic response region.
Next their seismic performance against the level 2 earthquake motions is checked.
However this process is not necessarily applied to all highway abutments and their founda-
tions. For only the foundations to be constructed on/in liquefiable ground, the verification
against the level 2 earthquake motions shall be conducted. In this case, the foundation
shall have the necessary strength and ductility to fulfill the structural requirements as fol-
lows: the damage to the foundation shall be limited within a level where it can be repaired
with reasonable cost and shall not cause a state where rescue operation of the bridge is not
available. These requirements refer to those for pier foundations which undergo effects of
liquefaction. Consequently, the ductility design against the level 2 earthquake motions is
applied only to deep foundations in liquefiable ground.

For abutment bodies above their foundations, verification may be omitted against
the level 2 earthquake motions even in the new specification as well as in the former speci-
fications. This is because an abutment which satisfies the performance requirement for the
level 1 earthquake motions is considered to posses enough strength and ductility against
the level 2 ones. This can be also supposed by the past damage case histories. It should be
noted that some structural details need to be specified in order to supplement skipping the
assessment of the seismic performance against the level 2 earthquake motions. The new
specification requires to arrange lateral confining reinforcements in the abutment body so
as to improve its ductility. It also demands to include the same amount of longitudinal
reinforcements on the front side of the cross section of the abutment body as those on its
back side in order to prevent excessive bending failure and diagonal tensile failure caused
by contacting of the abutment with the deck.

Survey of case histories of damage to abutments

We made a list of damaged abutments including foundations from the past damage
reports of recent large earthquakes in Japan. We selected typical cases from the list as is
summarized in Table 1. Table 1 exhibits contents of damage, height of abutment from the
bottom of pile cap, bearing condition, and equivalent thickness of liquefiable soil strata,
which is explained below, for each case. Note that we here picked up only case histo-
ries damaged by the type II earthquake motions to simplify the comparison among these
cases, because the behavior of abutments, foundations, and sub-soil layers would highly
depend on characteristics of seismic motions, e.g. the number of cycles, duration time, and
the intensity of earthquakes. All abutments that were finally picked up are supported by
group-pile foundation. Note also that pile foundations are employed for about a half of
the highway bridge foundations in Japan, in particular those are constructed in deep soft or
deep loose soil layers.

We judged the rank of damage based on the contents of damage for each case. In
Table 1 List of past damage case histories of abutments and computed nonlinear response of their
pile foundations
Case Earth- Rank Damage Height bearing Equivalent Response
quake* of of condition thickness of ductility
damage** abutment liquefiable factor
(m) soil strata
HE (m)
A 1 4 - spalling of concrete around anchor bolts of 9.8 move 6.8 3.2
- movement of abutment (10 cm)
B 1 4 - tilting of abutment, shear collapse of wing- 5 move 19.7 4.2
- slumping of backfill (1.0 m)
C 2 3 - tilting of abutment 3.3 move 18 not
- cracks in parapet wall yield
- outward movement of foundation (11 cm at
the top of the foundation)
D 1 3 - outward movement of abutment 5.5 fix 13.4 1.8
- slumping of backfill
E 1 2 - slumping of backfill (20 cm) 8.5 move 3 not
- collapse of bearings yield
F 1 2 - damage of abutment 8.8 move 3.2 1.4
- cracks in the surface of approach road
G 1 2 - cracks in parapet wall 10.3 move 6.9 1.1
- bump at the connection part between abut-
ment and backfill
H 1 2 - cracks of abutment 7 move 8 2
- collapse of side-blocks of bearings
- exchange of bearings in repair works
- slight slumping of backfill
I 1 2 - slumping of backfill 6.5 fix 1 1.2
J 1 2 - shrinkage of spacing of expansion joint 12.3 fix 0 2.9
- excessive movement of bearing
- bump in backfill
K 1 1 - a little spalling of concrete of abutment 6.6 fix 11.9 1.9
L 1 1 - shrinkage of spacing of expansion joint 7.5 move 4.7 1
- cracks in parapet wall
- bump in backfill
M 1 1 - shrinkage of spacing of expansion joint 6 fix 0.5 1.3
* ‘1’: the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake, ‘2’: the 2000 Western Tottori earthquake.
** Refer to Table 2

doing so, we set a four-tier criterion for the damage rank emphasizing whether the service
of the bridge was available or not right after the earthquake. The larger the number of the
rank, the more disastrous the damage. The relation among the ranks, serviceability and
repairability, and details of damage is displayed in Table 2. The serviceability indicates
the effect of the damage to the abutment or its foundation on the service or function of
the bridge right after the earthquake, and the repairability represents whether the complete
recover of the abutment and its foundation was possible by repair work with reasonable
cost or not.

Equivalent thickness of liquefiable soil strata H E is defined by

HE = H1∗ + H2∗
Table 2 Categorization of the degree of damage

Rank of 1 2 3 4
Degree of slight medium to large severe
Service- Fully operational Operational with No operation tem- Impossible
ability some restrictions porarily while doing
w.r.t weight of emergency counter-
vehicles and speed measure works**
Repair- Easy* Possible with minor Possible with major Impossible (Recon-
ability repair works repair works struction)
Typical - shrinkage of spac- - slumping of back- - horizontal move- - excessive horizon-
damage ing of expansion fill ment or rotation of tal movement or ex-
contents joint abutment cessive rotation of
- cracks of parapet - cracks of structural - excessive slumping - collapse of struc-
wall members of backfill tural members
- collapse of parapet

* e.g., with fixing slight cracks

** e.g., operational with some restrictions after constructing temporary bents

H1∗ = 1.5HFL1 + 1.0HFL2 + 0.5HFL3 (0 m ≤ z ≤ 10 m),

H2∗ = 1.0HFL1 + 0.5HFL2 (10 m ≤ z ≤ 20 m),
where z is the depth of soil layer from the ground level, H 1∗ is the thickness of liquefiable
soil strata estimated for strata in between z = 0 m and z = 10 m, and H 2∗ is the one estimated
for strata in between z = 10 m and z = 20 m, where the origin of the ground level GL is set
at the bottom of pile cap. H FL1 is the sum of the thicknesses of the soil strata for which the
values of factor of safety against liquefaction F L are assessed to be less than or equal to 0.6,
HFL2 is the sum of those with 0.6 < F L ≤ 0.8, and HFL3 is the sum of those with F L > 0.8.
This index has been proposed as one of indices in a past guideline for the assessment of
earthquake resistance of existing bridges. The equivalent thickness involves the effects that
the shallower the location of the liquefiable soil stratum is, the larger the impact of the
liquefaction of that stratum is on the horizontal bearing capacity of the foundation against
loads acting on its top, and that the smaller the value of F L is, the larger the loss of soil
stiffness is. In this study, we estimated the values of F L by following the procedures for the
type II seismic motions described in the currently effective specification[5].

An example of the cases with the damage rank 4 is shown below. The case ‘B’ in
Table 1 is the abutments of Higashi Uozaki bridge which collapsed by the 1995 Hyogo-ken
constraint by contact with deck

force earth
residual horizontal

loss of
subgrade reaction
liquefied soil strata

Figure 1 Schematic mechanism of damage to

Photo 1 Failure of abutments of Higashi abutments of Higashi Uozaki bridge
Uozaki bridge[3]

Nanbu earthquake[3]. This bridge passed over a canal, and had a total length of 64.8 m with
three spans. The abutments were cantilever-type walls with pile foundations consisting of
H-shaped steel piles. Photo 1 shows the failure of the A1 abutment. The A1 abutment
rotated backward and large cracks widespread on the front face of the abutment. Besides,
in the A2 abutment wall, shear collapse with widely opening cracks on the front face was
also observed. Based on the observation that the backfill of the abutments slumped, we
estimated that the abutments suffered residual horizontal displacement. The subsoil layers
consist of loose or soft soils, namely slime, sand, silty sand, and clay with SPT-N blow
counts of zero to six till 14.7 m deep from the river bed. Sand boils caused by liquefaction
were observed, and the revetment suffered outward lateral movement in the direction to the
canal. As is illustrated in Figure 1, the backward rotation of the abutment accompanied
with a lot of cracks on its front face may have occurred as follows:
1) the liquefaction of the subsoil layers resulted in the shortage of horizontal subgrade
reaction to support the foundation;
2) the foundation was pushed outward by the earth pressure acting on the back face of
the abutment and the inertial force of the abutment itself;
3) the decks constrained the above lateral movement at the top of the abutment;
4) the foundation and the lower part of the abutment continued to move laterally with
the above constraint, and a large tensile force by bending was mobilized at the front
face of the abutment.
The cause of damage to ‘A’ abutment in Table 1 which is categorized into the rank 4 is
also the lateral movement of foundation. It was possibly triggered by loss of horizontal
subgrade reaction induced by liquefaction of subsoil layers.

Figure 2 shows the relation between the damage rank and the equivalent thickness
of liquefiable soil strata for the abutments listed in Table 1. Although no unique relation
except for some positive correlation can be found, this figure implies that there is a pos-
sibility of severe damage (the rank 4) if the equivalent thickness of liquefiable soil strata
exceeds five meters. These case histories suggest that liquefaction of subsoil layers is the
primary cause of damage to abutments and their foundations.

Based on the damage mechanism estimated above, it is expected that we can pre-
vent abutments from severe damage as long as the possible displacement of the foundation
of an abutment during an earthquake is well-controlled even though liquefaction of the
subsoil layers may occur. Therefore the ductility design of abutments is applied to only
their foundations, and the specification requires us to carry out it when the subsoil layers
are considered to be liquefiable.

Seismic loads employed in the ductility design method of foundations of abutments

In the ductility design method, effects of earthquakes are modeled with pseudo-
static loads, namely seismic active earth pressure acting on the back face of the backfill
located on footing, inertial force acting on the backfill, abutment itself (wall), and footing,
and horizontal reaction from deck as shown in Figure 3. It would be reasonable to evaluate
the intensities of these pseudo-static loads based on the characteristics of their dynamic
responses considering the effects of liquefaction. However the quantitative evaluation of
these effects is not well established. Thereby, we set practically the intensities of these
seismically induced loads as follows. Note that we do not take the vertical component of
seismic motions into account in accordance with the customary practice.

The design horizontal seismic coefficient for evaluating seismic active earth pres-
sure and the inertial force of backfill located on footing is obtained as c A khg , where khg is
the design horizontal seismic coefficient at ground surface, and c A is the modification factor
for the amplification of acceleration in the backfill as well as in the adjacent embankment.
For simplicity, we assume that c A = 1 here. In Figure 3, khA denotes the design horizontal
seismic coefficient to determine the inertial forces of abutment and footing. We also as-
sume that khA = cA khg here, because the behavior of abutments during earthquakes would
be dominated by that of the backfill and embankment. The coefficient η to be multiplied
by horizontal reaction force from deck in Figure 3 represents the effect of phase differ-
ence between the horizontal response of superstructure and that of embankment. However,
we adopt that η = 1 here for simplicity, and assume the direction of the horizontal reac-
tion force from deck to be forward to result in more severe load conditions for abutment
η× reaction
4 force from
deck cA khg
HE = 5 m
cA khg failure
Rank of damage

3 plane

2 khA

earth pressure
0 10 20
Equivalent thickness of liquefiable
soil strata HE (m)

Figure 2 Comparison between equivalent thick-

ness of liquefiable soil strata and the Figure 3 Schematic figure of numerical model
rank of damage

foundations in practical design.

Seismic active earth pressure

The Mononobe-Okabe method (denoted herein as “M-O method”) is well-known

and widely accepted in a lot of design specifications or manuals as an evaluation method
of seismic active earth pressure. Examples of seismic active earth pressure coefficients ob-
tained by the M-O method are shown in Figure 4a with dotted lines, where k h is horizontal
seismic coefficient; K EA is seismic active earth pressure coefficient; φ is the internal friction
angle of embankment soil; δ is the friction angle at the interface between backfill located
on footing and embankment; and we assume the surface of embankment to be horizontal
and the back face of backfill on footing to be vertical. Designers usually employ φ = 30
to 40 degrees as the internal friction angle of embankment soil in the evaluation of earth
pressure. These values of φ are equivalent to residual strength of dense or relatively hard
soils in general. As their representative value, φ = 35 degrees was employed in Figure 4.
The levels of khg , the design horizontal seismic coefficient, at the ground surface are 0.6
to 0.8 in the ductility design, while it can be seen from Figure 4a that the values of K EA
with φ = 35 degrees cannot be obtained at such levels. Moreover, we examine the ratio
of failure zone length L as defined in Figure 4b to height H of abutment from the bottom
of footing. From the viewpoint of design practice, the failure zone length L indicates the
zone where settlement of road connecting to bridge may occur. The relations between L/H
and kh obtained by the M-O method are plotted with dotted lines in Figure 4b. When the
value of kh reaches 0.6 to 0.8, the values of L/H predicted by the M-O method with φ = 35
KEA (a) Embankment
L/H (b) L
Backfill modified 4
2 M-O M-O method
φpeak = 50◦ H φ = 50◦
failure φres = 35◦ δ = 35◦ /2
failure plane
resultant force
of earth pressure 2 c
1 c M-O method
M-O method
φ = 35◦
φ = 35◦ δ = 35◦ /2 b
δ = 35◦ /2
M-O method modified M-O method
φ = 50◦ a
b φpeak = 50◦ , φres = 35◦
a δ = 35◦ /2
0 0
0 0.5 1 0 0.5 1
kh kh

Figure 4 Seismic active earth pressure and failure zone of embankment (a, b, c: formation of first,
second, and third failure planes, respectively, in modified M-O method)

degrees become unrealistically large.

Now we recall the behavior of dense sand obtained by an element test (plane strain
compression test). Firstly the soil element is subjected to the process of strain hardening;
and then the element comes to mobilize the peak strength, and a shear band (or failure
plane) starts to emerge progressively; after that, strain softening process evolves, accom-
panying with the development of the shear band; finally the residual strength is mobilized.
Since backfill on footing of abutment and embankment soils are well-compacted, it would
be reasonable to take this behavior into the estimation of seismic active earth pressure. Ac-
cording to the above behavior, one can consider the following mechanism on the formation
of failure planes in the embankment soil and the mobilization of active earth pressure:
• the angle of failure plane is associated with the peak internal friction angle of em-
bankment soil, because the peak strength is mobilized in the soil elements when the
shear banding starts, and
• the value of active earth pressure is associated with the residual internal friction an-
gle, since the postpeak reduction of internal friction angle evolves after the formation
of shear band (or along the failure plane that has been already formed).
Based on the above hypotheses, the modified Mononobe-Okabe method has been proposed
by Koseki et al.[4]

Figure 4a also displays an example of the values of K EA calculated by the modified

M-O method with dash lines, where we assume the peak internal friction angle φ peak to be
50 degrees and the residual one φres to be 35 degrees; we also assume that the first failure
plain is formed at kh = 0; and we set the values of δ to be φpeak /2 until the formation of the
first failure plane (at kh = 0) and to be φres /2 after that, as the value of δ at the interface
between soils has been empirically set to be φ/2 in applying the original M-O method. In
the modified M-O method, after the formation of the first failure plane, the same failure
plane continues to be activated unlike the result from the original M-O method, because the
peak strength will be mobilized along any other failure plane in the embankment excluding
the first failure plane along which the residual strength is mobilized. However, when the
seismic coefficient kh is increased to a certain level, another failure plane will be activated,
because it gives the extremum of seismic active earth pressure, and at this level the second
failure plane is formed. The third, fourth, and other consecutive failure planes will be
formed in a similar manner.

The modified M-O method has a couple of advantages in comparison with the orig-
inal M-O method as can be seen in Figure 4. One is that the modified M-O method can
provide active earth pressure coefficient at large earthquake loads, even though the values
of kh get to 0.6 to 0.8 which are considered in the seismic design against the level 2 earth-
quakes. Another advantage is that the modified M-O method provides considerably smaller
and much realistic size of active failure zone in embankment than the conventional method
yields. In not only model test results on retaining structures but also case histories of actual
railway retaining walls damaged in the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake, the observed
angle of failure planes formed in backfill cannot be explained without introducing the peak
strength of soils, as has been reported by Koseki et al.[7, 8] Consequently, the modified
M-O method has been introduced into the new specification.

We, however, have given some engineering judgments to the original paper by
Koseki et al.[4] in order to make the modified M-O method more suitable for practical
use. In the modified M-O method, we have to estimate the level of k h at the formation of
the first failure plane. Since, at this moment, no reasonable method to evaluate it has been
established, we give zero value to the level of kh at which the first failure plane emerges.
This is because a failure plane can be formed due to a slight displacement of foundation
under the working load conditions. Next, we assume that no more failure planes appear
after the second failure plane is activated. This is because when the third failure plane
appears, the embankment should have already deformed largely, and it is considered that
the application of limit equilibrium approaches would be difficult at such a level. Thirdly,
although we can derive both the first and second failure planes, we take only the second
failure plane into account in estimating the seismic active earth pressure coefficient K EA
values for all the values of kh , because the second failure plane would be usually active
at the ground acceleration level of 0.6 to 0.8 G corresponding to the level 2 earthquake
motions. From the viewpoint of practical design, this assumption is reasonable, since this
gives us the values of K EA close to those which have been used in the past design practice
at the ground acceleration levels of around 0.2 G corresponding to the level 1 earthquake
motions. Hence the dimensions of abutments and their foundations can become similar to
those based on the past design practice.

The solid straight line in Figure 4 shows the results obtained by applying these
engineering judgments to the results from the modified M-O method. The K EA values can
be formulated as a linear function with respect to the horizontal seismic coefficient k h .
Around the acceleration level of 0.2 G, the present method yields the values of K EA close
to those estimated by the original M-O method with φ res = 35 degrees. Eventually, in
the newly revised specification, we have adopted the following equations to evaluate the
seismic active earth pressure coefficients,

KEA = 0.22 + 0.81kh for dense sand and gravel (1)

KEA = 0.26 + 0.97kh for dense sandy soil (2)

where the surface of embankment is supposed to be horizontal. In obtaining the above

equations, it is assumed that the internal friction angles of dense sand and gravel are φ peak =
50 degrees and φres = 35 degrees, and those of dense sandy soil are φpeak = 45 degrees and
φres = 30 degrees. In addition, as mentioned before, it is also assumed that δ = φ peak /2
until initiating the first failure plane and δ = φ res /2 after that.

Estimation of inelastic response of foundation system

It can be easily understood that displacement of the foundation of an abutment

would accumulate to one-way direction during an earthquake especially once the founda-
tion reaches yielding, because of the earth pressure acting on backfill on footing at any
moment. Many experimental studies have revealed this type of behavior. However, it is
difficult to predict the progressive movement of the foundation of an abutment since non-
linear hysteresis characteristic of foundation as well as that of seismic active/passive earth
pressure is not well-known. In the ductility design method of foundations of abutments, we
employ pushover analysis in order to grasp collapse behavior as a global foundation sys-
tem, and, in addition, we apply so-called ‘energy conservation method’ to the result from a
pushover analysis so as to estimate the possible response ductility factor of the foundation

As shown in Figure 5, the relation between horizontal seismic coefficient k hA and

displacement of the top of an abutment ∆ is employed for an evaluation of a nonlinear
response of the foundation by the energy conservation method. Before carrying out the
pushover analysis, we apply vertical dead loads and the active earth pressure that is evalu-
ated at kh = 0 in Eqs. (1) and (2) to the abutment in order to derive the initial displacement
of the foundation ∆i .

The reasons why we employ the pushover analysis and the energy conservation
method are as follows. Firstly it may not be necessary to utilize sophisticated methods,
kh (=acc./g)
µr = acc.: horizontal acceleration
yield ∆y
point g: the acceleration of gravity
µr : response ductility factor
∆y : yield displacement
∆r : response displacement

∆i ∆y ∆r
initial displacement
Figure 5 Estimation of response ductility factor

since the reliability and accuracy of them in predicting the dynamic behavior of abutment
systems including foundations and embankments are not well-known. Secondly we can
point out the characteristics of the intensity and duration of the design earthquake motions.
When we consider the type II seismic motions which have a few number of cycles with
high intensity and short duration, like those of the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake, the
displacement assessed by means of the energy conservation method employing their peak
horizontal acceleration would be predominant, and the accumulation of the progressive
movement may be omitted. For example, the energy conservation method is valid theoret-
ically for an elasto-plastic response of a single DOF system undergoing an impulse input
motion, which is relatively similar to the type II seismic motion. On the other hand, the
type I seismic motions have a large number of cycles. However the acceleration intensity
of each cycle is less than those of the type II seismic motions as has been explained in the
section of “Fundamentals of seismic design of abutments and their foundations”. Thereby,
it is not difficult to achieve enough strength of the foundation of an abutment against the
type I earthquake motions. In other words, there are few possibilities of the occurrence of
excessive residual displacement against the type I seismic motions with a lot of cycles as
long as we assure the response ductility factor of the foundation to be small enough by pro-
viding an adequate strength against the type II motions. Based on the above consideration,
in the newly revised specification, the verification against the level 2 earthquake motions
is required only against the type II earthquake motions.

Back-analysis of case histories and determination of allowable ductility factor

The allowable degree of damage for foundations of abutments would be essentially

the same as that for foundations of piers. With respect to group-pile foundations of piers,
the specification recommends that a response ductility factor should not exceed four. This
recommendation is based on results from experimental studies on large scale models of
group-pile foundations subjected to cyclic loads, such as those conducted by PWRI[9,
10]. However, as has been discussed in the previous section, the behavior of foundations
of abutments is more complicated than that of foundations of piers. Hence, in order to
confirm the applicability of the design method and to determine the allowable ductility
factor empirically, we conducted back-analyses of case histories on the thirteen abutment
foundations as listed in Table 1 following the design method proposed above and compared
the results with their actual damage ranks.

Modeling of foundation is made based on the relevant specification[6, 9, 10]. A

summary of the employed models is illustrated in Figure 3. Nonlinear properties in terms
of the bending of piles are considered by evaluating their moment-curvature relations. The
resistance of pile against the axial force is modeled as an elastic-perfectly plastic bilinear
model by setting its yield points at the ultimate bearing capacity and the ultimate pull-
out capacity, respectively, against the compression and pull-out forces. The horizontal
subgrade reaction is modeled by using a distributed spring having a bilinear property.

Moreover, these back-analyses employ the following assumptions. First, we esti-

mate the ground acceleration and the degrees of the reduction of soil stiffness caused by
liquefaction based on the specification[5] for the type II earthquake motions. Second, for
several foundations of which the details of the arrangements of reinforcement bars are un-
known, we carry out re-designs based on the specifications that were effective when they
were constructed. Third, we assume that all the embankments at the back of the abutments
are with good quality and well compacted, and hence we set the internal friction angles of
the embankment to be 50 degrees for the peak strength and to be 35 degrees for the residual

To simplify the back-analyses, we regard the yield point shown in Figure 5 for
the relation between horizontal seismic coefficient kh and displacement at the top of an
abutment ∆ as the state when all piles reach yielding or when a compressive reaction force
at a pile top reaches its bearing capacity. These criteria are suggested in the specification,
and usually yield almost the same point as the one obtained by the so-called ‘log k h -log ∆
analysis’. Furthermore we assume the kh -∆ curve as an idealized elastic-perfectly plastic
bilinear curve as shown in Figure 5.

The computed response ductility factors are listed in Table 1, and are compared
with the actual damage ranks in Figure 6. Note that two abutments do not reach yielding
in the pushover analysis. In such cases, the response ductility factors are set as one in
Figure 6. It is seen that a foundation can avoid severe damage categorized as the rank 4
when it is designed to yield the value of response ductility factor less than two or three. In
other words, if the foundation of an abutment is given a capacity with the value of response
ductility factor being less than two or three and if the foundation consists of well-designed
members, it would satisfy the required seismic performance against the design earthquake
motions. Although all the foundations analyzed herein are pile foundation, we consider that
this result can be applicable to any other type
of deep foundation. Therefore, the newly
revised Specifications for Highway Bridges
recommend that the limit value of response

Rank of damage
ductility factor of foundations of abutments 3
should be µr = 3.

However, we have to realize that 2

some limitations still exist with respect to
our proposed assessment method. For in-
stance, the value of response ductility factor 1
for the case ‘C’ abutment listed in Table 1 1 2 3 4
is one (i.e. no yielding) although its dam- Response ductility factor
age is classified into the rank 3. This abut-
Figure 6 Comparison between computed re-
ment was damaged in the 2000 Western Tot-
sponse ductility factor and the rank of
tori earthquake[11]. It had supported a deck
actual damage
built over a canal with a simple single span
of 17.4 m. The canal had a revetment con-
sisting of a leaning-type retaining wall using concrete blocks. According to the damage
survey report[11], it is confirmed that the surrounding ground liquefied and spread later-
ally, causing a residual displacement of the revetment over 1 m. The equivalent thickness
of liquefiable soil strata for this case is much larger than that for the other cases, so that we
can suppose that this foundation was damaged by the lateral spreading of the ground down
to its deeper position. Because the effect of lateral spreading of the ground is not consid-
ered in the assessment method employed here, the computed result does not coincide with
the actual damage for this case.

Concluding remarks

This paper explains the ductility design of abutment foundations of highway bridges
and its background, which has been newly introduced in the Specifications for Highway
Bridges revised in 2002. The design method developed here is a simple and practical
one, and its applicability is confirmed based on results from back-analyses of damage case
histories. However some limitations still remain to be improved, such as those on the
load-combinations, the computation procedure of progressive movement of foundations of
abutments, and the safety evaluation method of abutment walls. A study on the damage
control design against the lateral spreading of ground induced by its liquefaction is also re-
quired. We hope that this paper contributes to the progress of seismic design of abutments
and their foundations.
Acknowledgment This research was performed for the revision of the Specifications for
Highway Bridges in Japan. We particularly acknowledge the Working Group for Seis-
mic Design of Abutments chaired by Dr. M. Saeki set in the Committee for Substructures
chaired by Dr. M. Okahara established in the Japan Road Association for their comments
and supports to our work.


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