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11th ICSGE Ain Shams University

17-19 May 2005 Faculty of Engineering

Cairo - Egypt Department of Structural Engineering

Eleventh International Colloquium on Structural and Geotechnical Engineering



Medhat Kamal Abdullah1

In this paper, the analysis of one-cell-box-girder deck using two of the most common
computer modeling techniques is introduced. These methods are: (a) grillage analysis method
and (b) beam analysis method. The results of these different methods are compared to the
results of a loading test on a real bridge. A parametric study is also introduced to study the
effect of many parameters on the structural behavior of this kind of bridge decks.

Box–girder bridge decks are preferred to beam-and-slab bridge decks for spans
exceeding 30 m because they are more economical in both material contents and formwork, in
addition to their high longitudinal bending stiffness and high torsional stiffness that make this
type of decks better in stability and in load distribution.
There are many structural modeling techniques for the analysis of box-girder bridge
decks. The choice of a certain technique to be used depends on not only the accuracy, but also
the simplicity of this technique.
The simple beam theory has been used widely among design engineers for its
simplicity. In this method, the box girder is modeled by a single beam element that considers
only the longitudinal bending and the St. Venant torsion. The effect of the transversal load
distribution is neglected and the box is considered as a single beam regardless the number of
If the box-girder has few transversal cross girders (diaphragms), shear flexible grillage
is most appropriate for the analysis of this bridge (1, 2, 3, and 4). In this method, the box
girder is modeled by a grid of beams in both directions as shown in figure (1).
Folded plate analysis provides the most accurate method if the deck has uniform cross
section all-over the span of the bridge (2).
The space frame analysis is another accurate modeling technique that many engineers
like to use.
On the other hand, if the deck has more complicated cross-section and many intermediate
diaphragms, a 3-D finite element model may be used. This model is complicated and does not
provide a practical design values for the practicing engineers.
The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, AASHTO 1996
(5) and the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code, CHBDC2000 (6), have recommended
several method of analysis of the straight box-girder decks. These methods include: finite
element method, finite strip method, folded plate method and grillage analysis.

Assistant Professor Department of Civil Eng., Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt.
Figure 1: Grillage for one span twin-cell concrete box-girder deck.
(a)Deck section, (b) Grillage section and (c) Grillage mesh.

A comparison between the most common analysis techniques among the designers, the
beam analysis method and the grillage method is presented in this research to address the
differences in using each of them. A real bridge deck was used for this study. The details of
this bridge are shown in figure (2).
The numerical results were compared to the results of an actual load test performed on the
real bridge mentioned above.
A parametric study is also presented in order to address the structural impact of the
stiffness degradation of the different elements of the box section on the lateral distribution of
the applied vehicle loads.
The sensitivity of the behavior of the deck to the number of the cross girders was
addressed by studying the change in the behavior of the deck due to the change of both the
number and the properties of the cross girders. The deck was solved with one cross girder at
midspan and the stiffness of this cross girder was changed. Then two additional cross girders
were used and the results were compared.
The effect of web inclination on the behavior of the box is also studied and shown.


The bridge under consideration is part of a series of bridges along Rasheed-Al Mahmoudia
link to the International Coastal Ring road at El-Behirah, Egypt. It consists of 22 spans each
of them is 25-meter long and 19-meter wide with an expansion joint along the centerline of
the bridge. An intermediate diaphragm was used to connect the webs as a request of the
owner. The cross section of the deck is a one-cell reinforced concrete box section as shown in
figure2. The characteristic strength of the concrete after 28 days (fcu) is 450 kg/cm2.

Figure 2a: Details of longitudinal section.

Figure 2b: Details of plan at top slab.

Figure 2c: Details of section of

transversal direction.

Two 40-ton trucks were located, as shown in
figure3 and picture 1, in positions similar to the
analytical study. The deflections were measured at
midspan and at the quarter points of the two webs
using digital LVDT with accuracy 0.001 mm.

The strains at the top of the webs were measured at

the quarter points for each web using electrical
strain gages type K-YOWA. The readings for both
the deflection and the strain were taken as follows:
Picture (1): loading test
1. Just before loading.
2. Immediately after loading.
3. Every hour after loading, for 4 hours.
4. Right after unloading.
5. Every half-hour after unloading for 2 hours.
Figure 3: Loading test.

The bridge deck was analyzed under the effect of two-40 ton trucks loaded as shown in
figure 3. This arrangement of loads was chosen to get the maximum bending moment at mid-
span of web1. The analysis was performed by the computer software SAP90. The bridge deck
was solved as a single frame using the beam analysis method as shown in figure 4.
The bridge deck was solved again by modeling it as a 2-D grillage model. In this model,
the two webs were considered the main longitudinal beams as shown in figure 5. Both slabs
and the intermediate diaphragm were considered as transversal grillage members. References
1, 2 and 3 may be referred to for more details about the grillage modeling.
In the following sections, the different results are summarized.

Figure 4: Beam Analysis.

Figure (5): sectional proportional of grillage members.
(a) Cross section. (b) Cross section of long. grillage members. (c) Cross
section of trans. grillage members.

I.Comparison between the beam analysis model and the grillage model:
Table 1 shows the results of the beam analysis model and the grillage model in addition to the
results of the loading test.
Table 1 Comparison between grillage and beam analysis models
LOADED WEB (WEB1) 3.14 4.7 2.8


LOADED WEB (WEB1) 129.3 167.8
UNLOADED WEB (WEB2) 129.3 127.3
TOTAL MOMENT 258.6 295.1

Torsional moment (M.T) 64 63.29 ------------

As shown in the table, the bending moment for the loaded web obtained by the beam
analysis model is 23% less than that obtained by the grillage model (129.3 vs. 167.8).
Moreover, the total moment of the box section obtained by the beam analysis is about 12.4%
less than the results of the grillage model. The results of the beam analysis are in the unsafe-
design direction which leads to under-design of the section.
This observation indicates the inaccuracy of the beam analysis modeling technique,
which is widely used by practicing engineers, in both the lateral load distribution between the
webs and in determining the total bending moment of the box-section. Moreover, the beam
analysis method can not account for warping, distortion, and bending deformations of the
individual wall elements of the box. It also can not predict the response of the deck slab due to
local wheel loads.
In all of the following sections the results of the grillage analysis will be used as it has
been proven to be the most appropriate modeling technique in our case.
II. Torsion moment of the box section:
The torsion moment of the box section is made up from the torque in the longitudinal grillage
elements in addition to the eccentricity of the shear forces of the two external webs at the
sides of the deck. Figure 6 shows the torsion forces on cross section of twisted deck and the
corresponding grillage model.
One half of the total torque on the cross section is provided by the summation of
longitudinal member torque and the other half is provided by the opposed vertical
shear forces on opposite sides of the section.

Figure (6) Torque of box girder.

In the case of vertical webs, the arm between the shear forces is taken as the horizontal
distance between the centroids of the two external webs. In the case of inclined webs, some
designers consider the distance between the webs at the top slab to be the arm distance, which
usually results in higher values for the torque. Table 1 shows the values of the total torque
calculated in our study when the arm is considered as the distance between the centroids of
the inclined webs compared to the results of the beam analysis 63.29 Ton.m vs. 64. Ton.m.
When the distance between the webs at the top slab is considered instead, as usually done by
some bridge designers, the total torque is 70.46 Ton.m which is 11.3% higher than the results
shown in table 1

III. Effect of the rigidity of the transverse grillage members on the grillage results:

The main components of the

transverse grillage members are the
top and bottom slabs in addition to
the external and internal
diaphragms. The bending of the
box slab in the transversal direction
about the neutral axis at the level of
their common center of gravity is
shown in figure 7.

Figure (7) Transverse slabs.

The moment of inertia of the top and bottom slabs in the transverse direction is:
IT = h2d'd"/ (d'+d") per unit width

The torsional constant of these slabs in the transverse direction is:

CT = 2 IT per unit width

Where d', d" and h are the slab thicknesses and the distance between the centroids of the top
and bottom slabs (1, 2 and 3).
Table 2 shows the variation of the bending moment and the torque when the rigidity of
the transverse slab section reduces due to cracking.
In this table, Rs, represents the ratio considered from both the inertia IT and the
torsional constant CT required to determine the flexural and torsional rigidity of the transverse

Table 2 Effect of the rigidity of the transverse slabs (Rs)

B.M, Web1 B.M, Web2 Torque
(Ton.m) (Ton.m) (Ton.m)
Rs=0.00 198.21 80.00 64.60
Rs=0.25 167.80 127.30 63.29
Rs=0.50 165.31 131.20 62.18
Rs=0.75 162.36 134.24 61.60
Rs=1.0 160.40 136.00 61.38
In this comparison, the rigidity of the intermediate diaphragm RID = 0. 5
When Rs=0.25, the ratio between the B.M. of the loaded and the unloaded
webs is 132%. This ratio decreases to 118% by considering the full rigidity of the
slabs (Rs =1, i.e. uncracked slabs).These results show remarkable change in the lateral
distribution of the load between the longitudinal members due to the change in the
rigidity of the transverse members.

IV.Effect of intermediate diaphragms:

In order to address the effect of the intermediate diaphragms on the behavior of the
box girder, the rigidity of the existing intermediate diaphragm was changed from 0%
to 100%, RID =0 and 1.0, respectively and the behavior of the deck was investigated.
Table 3 shows the straining actions of the webs under different values of the rigidity of
the intermediate diaphragm.

Table 3 Effect of the rigidity of the intermediate diaphragm RID1

B.M, Loaded Web B.M, Unloaded Web Torque
(Ton.m) (Ton.m) (Ton.m)
RID=0.0 165.29 131.11 62.18
RID=0.25 165.30 131.15 62.18
RID=0.50 165.31 131.17 62.18
RID=0.75 165.31 131.19 62.18
RID=1.0 165.32 131.21 62.18

As shown in the table, the change in the straining actions of the longitudinal
grillage is not affected by changing the rigidity of the intermediate diaphragm. Moreover,
the results are not affected by the existence of the intermediate diaphragm as shown in the
results of table 3 when RID =0 compared to the results when RID = 1.0.
The above mentioned results about the effect of intermediate diaphragms
were emphasized by considering two intermediate diaphragms instead of one and
the analysis of the box was repeated. Table 4 shows the results in three cases:
without intermediate diaphragm, with one intermediate diaphragm and with two
intermediate diaphragms.
Table 4 Effect of the number of the intermediate diaphragms
B.M, Loaded Web B.M, Unloaded Web Torque
(Ton.m) (Ton.m) (Ton.m)
NO I.D. 165.29 131.11 62.18
ONE I.D. 165.30 131.15 62.18
TWO I.Ds. 166.38 130.65 62.30

As shown in both tables 3 and 4, the intermediate diaphragms have little

benefits in our study. In fact this has been always the case for straight box decks. This
conclusion explains the reason for some specifications to change the requirements of
the intermediate diaphragm. For example, AASHTO bridge design specifications
required intermediate diaphragm spaced every 12 m maximum, prior to 1969. After
1969, the spacing increased to 18 m. In 1994, AASHTO specified that for straight box
girder bridges and for curved box girder bridges with an inside radius of curvature
more than 240 m, there is no need for intermediate diaphragms (5). In fact, the
introduction of intermediate diaphragms impedes the construction progress and there
is a tendency to eliminate them.
Unfortunately, this fact is still unknown among some designers who insist on
adding not only one, but two or more intermediate diaphragms increasing the
complexity of the construction.

V. Effect of the angle of inclination of the webs:

Usually the external webs are preferred to be inclined for better architectural shape of
the bridge and to reduce the space required for the substructure under the bridge deck.
In order to study the effect of the angle of inclination of the webs (d, degree), a 3-
D shell model was used in which; the inclination of the webs to the horizontal varies
between 45 deg. to 90 deg. In all cases the width of the carriage way was maintained
unchanged. As shown in figure 8.a.
Figure 8.b shows the straining actions studied in this section:
• The bending moment along the web width, M1, M2 and M3
• The bending moment along the web length, M4 and M5
• The axial force along the top slab, T1 and T2. (Ton/m).

Figure (8): Effect of the inclination of the webs on the out of plane moments.

(a) The inclination of the webs to the horizontal (do).

(b) Elevation of the web without of plane bending moments.

Table 5 shows the change of the above mentioned moments and forces when the angle
of web inclination changes.

Table 5 Effect of the angle of inclination of the webs (d)

M1 M2 M3 M4 M5 T1 T2
d=45 0.5 0.16 0.19 8.9 1.7 3.35 4.5
d=60 0.53 -0.3 0.39 4.67 1.02 1.5 2.6
d=75 0.53 -0.5 0.61 1.68 0.41 0.1 1.34
d=90 0.56 -0.7 0.87 0.1 0 -1.1 0.98

The transversal moment M1 at the top of the web does not change by changing d
while M2 and M3 change due to the increase in the width of the bottom slab by
increasing d.
The longitudinal moments M4 and M5, at the sides of the web, increase when d
decreases. These moments require longitudinal side reinforcement in the web which is
increased near the end diaphragm. This reinforcement is usually ignored by the
designers. M4 and M5 decrease by increasing the angle of inclination d due to the
decrease in the component of the weight of the web normal to its plane.
The axial forces T1 and T2 are higher for smaller values of d. These forces are
axial tensile forces that require additional reinforcement in the top slab which is
usually ignored by inexperienced designers.

1. The beam analysis modeling technique is inaccurate and leads to unsafe design
of box-girder bridge decks.
2. The distance between the centroids of the webs must be used when calculating
the torque on the section instead of the distance at the top slabs.
3. The change in the rigidity of the transversal slabs results in remarkable change in
the lateral distribution of the load between the longitudinal members.
4. The use of intermediate diaphragms has been proven to have no advantages in
box section bridge deck with single cell.
5.The web inclination changes the out of plane bending moment and introduces
tensile forces on the top slab

1- West, R. “The use of grillage analogy for the analysis of slab and pseudo-slab
bridge decks”, Research Report 21, Cement and Concrete Association,
London, 1973.
2- E. C. Hambly, “Bridge deck behavior”, 2nd edition, 1991.
3- Conrad P. Heins, Richard A. Lawrie, “Design of modern concrete highway
bridges”, John Wiley and Sons, 1984.
4- Eugene J. O’Brien and Damien L. Keogh, “Bridge Deck Analysis”, E & FN
Spon, London, 1999.
5- AASHTO,(1996), Standard specifications for highway bridges,
Washington, D.C.
6- Canadian highway bridge design code(CHBDC 2000), Ontario Ministry of