Impact of overhang construction on girder design
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Economical constraints on the design of bridges usually necessitate the use of as few girders as possible across the bridge width. The girders are typically uniformly spaced transversely with the deck extending past the fascia girders, thereby resulting in an overhang. While designers commonly employ rules of thumb with regard to the geometry of the overhang, these rules of thumb generally lack research justification and the actual girder behavior is not well understood. Overhang construction often produces torsinally unbalanced loading on the girder system, which can lead to problems in steel and concrete girder bridges during construction. The main issue with concrete girder bridges is excessive lateral rotation in the fascia girder, which can cause potential problems of construction safety and maintenance. Field problems on concrete bridges have been reported in the state of Texas where the fascia girders experienced excessive rotation during construction. For steel girder bridges, the unbalanced overhang loading can lead to both local and global instability. Locally, the overhang brackets often exert a large force on the web plate that can distort the web and increase the magnitude of the plate imperfection. Global stability problems have also occurred primarily on bridge widening projects when a few girders are added to an existing bridge system. The girders in the widening are usually isolated from the existing bridge and the unbalanced load from the overhang can cause excessive twist that intensifies the global stability of the girder system. The objective of this study was to improve the understanding of the bridge behavior due to the unbalanced loading from the overhangs and to identify critical factors affecting the girder behavior. The study was also aimed at developing simple design methodologies and design recommendations for overhang construction. The research included field monitoring, laboratory tests, and parametric finite element analyses. The data from the field monitoring and laboratory tests were used to validate finite element models for both concrete and steel girder bridges. Based on the validated models, detailed parametric studies were conducted to investigate the effects of the unbalanced loading. Results from the parametric studies were used to identify the geometries of girder systems that are prone to problems with the overhangs as well as to provide design suggestions. In addition, a closed-form solution for lateral rotation in the fascia girder in a concrete girder bridge was derived using a rigid-body model, and was used to develop design methodology and design recommendations for overhang construction.