Examination of level of analysis accuracy for curved I-girder bridges through comparisons to field data

D. Nevling, D. Linzell, J. Laman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


To evaluate the accuracy of different levels of analysis used to predict horizontally curved steel I-girder bridge response, a field test was performed on a three-span structure. Collected strain data were reduced to determine girder vertical and bottom flange lateral bending moments. Experimental moments were compared to numerical moments obtained from three commonly employed levels of analysis. Level 1 analysis includes two manual calculation methods: a line girder analysis method described in the AASHTO Guide Specification for Horizontally Curved Highway Bridges, and the V-load method. Grillage models represent Level 2 and were created using three commercially available computer programs: SAP2000, MDX, and DESCUS. Level 3 consists of three-dimensional (3D) finite element models created using SAP2000 and the BSDI 3D system. Responses obtained from each level are compared and discussed for a single radial cross section of the structure, and the compared results involve truck loads and placement schemes that do not represent those used for bridge design. The field test and numerical data presented are used solely to determine the accuracy of each level of analysis for predicting structure response to a specific live load at a specific cross section. Results showed that Level 2 and Level 3 analyses predict girder vertical bending moment distributions more accurately than Level 1 analyses throughout the tested cross section. The comparisons indicate that Level 3 girder vertical bending moment distributions offered no appreciable increase in accuracy over Level 2 analyses. The study also indicates that both Level 1 and Level 3 analyses provide bottom flange lateral bending moment distributions that do not correlate well with field test results for the studied bridge cross section.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-168
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bridge Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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