Capacity assessment of arch bridges with backfill Case of the old Årsta railway bridge
Abstract: The work presented in this thesis comprises the assessment of existing arch bridges with overlying backfill. The main objective is to estimate the load carrying capacity in ultimate limit state analysis. A case study of the old Årsta railway bridge is presented, serving as both the initiation and a direct application of the present research. The demand from the bridge owner is to extend the service life of the bridge by 50 years and increase the allowable axle load from 22.5 to 25 metric tonnes. The performed analyses show a great scatter in estimated load carrying capacity, depending on a large number of parameters. One of the factors of main impact is the backfill material, which may result a significant increase in load carrying capacity due to the interaction with the arch barrel. Based on theoretical analyses, extensive conditional assessments and the demand from the bridge owner, it was decided that the bridge needed to be strengthened.The author, in close collaboration with both the bridge owner and the persons performing the conditional assessment, performed the development of a suitable strengthening. The analyses showed a pronounced three-dimensional behaviour, calling for a design using non-linear finite element methods. Due to demands on full operability during strengthening, a scheme was developed to attenuate any decrease in load carrying capacity. The strengthening was accepted by the bridge owner and is currently under construction. It is planned to be finalised in 2012.The application of field measurements to determine the structural manner of action under serviceability loads are presented and have shown to be successful. Measured strain of the arch barrel due to passing train has been performed, both before, during and after strengthening. The results serve as input for model calibration and verification of the developed strengthening methods.The interaction of the backfill was not readily verified on the studied bridge and the strengthening was based on the assumption that both the backfill and the spandrel walls contributed as dead weight only. The finite element models are benchmarked using available experimental results in the literature, comprising masonry arch bridges with backfill loaded until failure. Good agreement is generally found if accounting for full interaction with the backfill. Similarly, accounting for the backfill as dead weight only, often results in a decrease in load carrying capacity by a factor 2 to 3. Still, several factors show a high impact on the estimated load carrying capacity, of which many are difficult to accurately assess. This suggests a conservative approach, although partial interaction of the backfill may still increase the load carrying capacity significantly.
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