Composite Bridge Decking: Final Project Report
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Composite Bridge Decking: Final Project Report

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    The overall objective of this Highways for LIFE Technology Partnerships project was to find the optimal materials and methods to fabricate a composite bridge deck based on a prototype devised by the University at Buffalo, under the sponsorship of New York State Department of Transportation. Benefits of this type of deck are their resistance to corrosion and fatigue, their light weight, and the ability to prefabricate into panels that can be installed on a bridge quickly to minimize disruption to traffic and improve safety. The process used to fabricate deck panels was improved by combining consistent-quality pultruded subcomponents with a vacuum-infused outer wrap. The strength and stiffness were first determined analytically using finite element methods, then validated independently with extensive full-scale laboratory testing. Details of the installation were demonstrated on a 40-foot-long bridge during August 2012. After a two-course wearing surface was applied, the bridge was instrumented and load tested to further refine the finite element model. The numerical model was found to be a reliable and accurate representation of actual conditions, with predicted strains and deflections within 5 percent of what was measured in the field. with working stresses less than 25 percent of the material’s ultimate strength, a sudden failure of the deck is virtually impossible. Furthermore, panels purposely overloaded in the lab exhibited a pseudo-ductile behavior and had residual strength after failure. The 5-inch-thick composite deck carried two 35-ton test trucks during a field test, with a self-weight of about 20 psf. The lightweight deck helped improve the load rating of the bridge, which was a priority for the owner. The end result of the project is a robust, high-quality deck suitable for many applications, including moveable bridges, historic trusses, and posted bridges. Because the initial material cost is higher than conventional alternatives, future use may be restricted to situations where the rapid installation offsets the cost of maintenance and protection of traffic, or where the light weight is especially important, such as on moveable, deteriorated or historic structures. In any case, the total life cycle cost is competitive because of the material’s innate resistance to deterioration (such as corrosion and fatigue).
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