Estimating Deterioration in the Concrete Tie-Ballast Interface Based on Vertical Tie Deflection Profile: A Numerical Study
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Estimating Deterioration in the Concrete Tie-Ballast Interface Based on Vertical Tie Deflection Profile: A Numerical Study

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      In ballasted concrete tie track, the tie-ballast interface can deteriorate resulting in concrete tie bottom abrasion, ballast pulverization and/or voids in tie-ballast interfaces. Tie-ballast voids toward tie ends can lead to unfavorable center binding support conditions that can result in premature concrete tie failure and possible train derailment. Direct detection of these conditions is difficult. There is a strong interest in assessing the concrete tie-ballast interface conditions indirectly using measured vertical deflections. This paper seeks to establish a link between the vertical deflection profile of a concrete tie top surface and the tie-ballast interface condition using the finite element analysis (FEA) method. The concrete tie is modeled as a concrete matrix embedded with prestressing steel strands or wires. The configurations of two commonly used concrete ties, one with 8 prestressing strands and the other with 20 prestressing wires, are employed in this study. All models are three-dimensional and symmetric about the tie center. A damaged plasticity model that can predict onset and propagation of tensile cracks is applied to the concrete material. The steel-concrete interface is homogenized and represented with a thin layer of cohesive elements sandwiched between steel and concrete elements. Strand- or wire-specific elasto-plastic bond models developed at the Volpe Center are applied to the cohesive elements to account for the interface bonding mechanisms. FE models are developed for both original and worn concrete ties, with the latter assuming hypothetical patterns of reduced cross sections resulting from abrasive interactions with the ballast. Static analyses of pretension release in these concrete ties are conducted, and vertical deflection gradients along tie lengths are calculated and shown to correspond well with the worn cross sectional patterns for a given reinforcement type.
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