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Life cycle cost analysis for joint elimination retrofits and thermal loading on Colorado bridges




Harper-Smith Kelly, Aura Lee, author
Mahmoud, Hussam, advisor
Atadero, Rebecca, advisor
Strong, Kelly, committee member

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Bridge expansion joints are a particularly troublesome component of bridges and many Departments of Transportation (DOTs) are looking for a solution to deteriorating expansion joints on highway bridges. Bridge expansion joints create a break in the structural continuity of a bridge allowing clogging gravels and corroding chlorides to enter. They are designed to absorb thermal movements of the bridge between two bridge elements. There are three main issues regarding expansion joint: maintenance, knowledge about thermal movements, and costs. In order to prevent deterioration due to expansion joints the joints must be cleaned regularly and replaced promptly after failure. However, most DOTs do not have the personnel, time or resources to maintain expansion joints in their districts which leads to bridge deterioration. Other similar maintenance and component issues have been addressed using a Life Cycle Cost Analysis. For this to be used on expansion joints the three main issues of thermal knowledge, maintenance, and costs must first be addressed. The main goal of this project is to help transportation agencies make better decisions about bridge expansion joints. The specific objectives of this study are to 1) expand understanding of thermal loading effects on bridge expansion joints and 2) conduct a LCCA for joint elimination and retrofits for bridges in Colorado. These objectives were accomplished utilizing data from in field instrumentation and finite element models. The study has been developed jointly between the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and researchers at Colorado State University Three main tasks were conducted to achieve the objectives: 1) collect and analyze long-term thermal loading data from existing bridges to assess thermal loading impacts on joints; 2) perform a parametric study using a calibrated finite element model to further understanding of joint behavior and retrofit options under thermal loads; 3) perform a LCCA for bridge expansion joint retrofitting including impacts on bridge superstructure. The significance of this work includes the results of the data collection and analysis, the parametric study, and the LCCA findings. The preliminary data on the concrete bridge C-17-AT presented in this thesis only accounts for mid-winter temperatures. However, these limited observations do imply that if CDOT is interested in removing an expansion joint, the bridge superstructure and retrofit option would need to support the movement of the bridge. The parametric study and data analysis of thermal gradients indicate a stark need for further research into thermal gradients experienced by bridges. Finally, the LCCA concluded that a retrofit continuous bridge design would provide the most cost effective design by decreasing joint replacement costs and pier cap corrosion.


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deck joints
expansion joints
life cycle cost analysis


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