Performance Evaluation of Isotropic Bridge Decks
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Performance Evaluation of Isotropic Bridge Decks

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    This report compares the performance of the isotropic bridge deck design method, also known as the empirical design method, with that of the conventional AASHTO design method given Michigan’s environment and vehicle loads. An isotropic bridge deck is composed of an arrangement of reinforcement in which the bars are the same size and spaced equally in both the transverse and longitudinal directions. This design is based on the failure method for bridge decks being punching shear instead of flexure, which has been shown through research and testing. Designed accordingly, the amount of reinforcement necessary may be less for an isotropic deck. This study looked at ten isotropic decks and several conventional decks on parallel structures. Crack widths and crack densities were found to be comparable between the two designs, with isotropic decks exhibiting less transverse cracking and more longitudinal cracking than conventional decks. Cracking was found to be proportional with beam spacing and volume of truck traffic for both deck design methods, and the effects of skew were inconclusive. The cost savings for the isotropic design were found to be proportional to beam spacing, with smaller beam spacing providing little or no cost savings over the conventional design. Since the performance of the isotropic design was found to be satisfactory and comparable to the conventional design, it is recommended that the department continue use of the isotropic design method where cost savings are realized.
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