Stiffness and fatigue behavior of cross frames for steel bridge applications
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Cross frames are critical for the stability of straight and curved steel bridges. Conventional cross frames are often fabricated from steel angles which are welded to gusset plates through one leg only. Due to this eccentric connection, these angles have substantial bending at the connection that can reduce the member stiffness and can potentially decrease fatigue performance. Because of the low buckling strength, cross frames with angle diagonals are often designed as tension-only systems, therefore increasing the necessary steel to be an effective brace. Improved behavior may result if concentric members are utilized. The increased buckling strength of tubes and double angles results in effective members in both compression and tension, and a single diagonal cross frame can provide effective bracing; however, a suitable connection must be developed. Tubes are often connected by slotting the tube in the center and welding to a gusset plate, which requires precise fabrication. Two proposed solutions that would connect easily to the ends of the member and seal the end of the tube include a steel casting and a T-stem connection. The dissertation studies the development of a steel casting for use in cross frame design and evaluates the performance of the various details described herein in regards to stiffness, strength, and fatigue. Additionally, the dissertation covers the behavior of single angle X and K frame configurations. To date, the determination of the single angle fatigue detail has been largely based on component tests only. The project incorporated full-scale cross frame fatigue tests to fully examine the interaction of the cross frame members with the overall structure. Results from currently used details and proposed connections provide insight to the live load behavior of these braces and multiple recommendations are made to improve the fatigue life. The project examined the stiffness behavior of current and proposed cross frame layouts with large-scale laboratory tests and computational modeling. From these results, a case study compares the fatigue analysis of a commercial structural software package to the stress ranges obtained in a three-dimensional finite element model. Suggestions on how to properly model the cross frames are given.