Design of mechanically stabilized earth wall connections and end of walls subjected to seismic loads.
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Design of mechanically stabilized earth wall connections and end of walls subjected to seismic loads.

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  • Abstract:
    The 4th Edition of the AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications requires all states to design for a 1,000-

    year return period earthquake, as opposed to earlier editions’ 500-year return period. In response to this

    requirement, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) sponsored this study to examine the impact

    that these more stringent design requirements have upon connection details in mechanically stabilized earth

    (MSE) walls. The objective of this study was to perform displacement-based dynamic finite element analyses

    of MSE walls to examine the response of selected internal components when subjected to seismic excitations

    such as those expected in Colorado. Details that were of particular interest were the upper block connections

    in modular block walls; the dynamic displacements of the ends of walls; and the relative displacements and

    motions between the wall facings, soil reinforcement, and soil. The results of this study show that segmental

    and modular block walls representative of typical current CDOT design practices performed well with respect

    to both serviceability and strength requirements, even under AASHTO’s newly stringent requirement for the

    consideration of a 1,000-year return period earthquake.


    The results of these linear elastic finite element studies indicate that seismic design for MSE walls in

    Colorado does not need to be routinely completed. The MSE walls, which were modeled based upon walls

    designed using current CDOT MSE wall design procedures, performed very well under all of the seismic

    loads examined. This means that CDOT’s MSE walls do not need to be designed for seismic loads as per the

    AASHTO recommendation.

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