Impact of climate change on the integrity of the superstructure of deteriorated U.S. bridges

Autoři: Susan Palu aff001;  Hussam Mahmoud aff001
Působiště autorů: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States of America aff001
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article


Bridges in America are aging and deteriorating, causing substantial financial strain on federal resources and tax payers’ money. Of the various deterioration issues in bridges, one of the most common and costly is malfunctioning of expansion joints, connecting two bridge spans, due to accumulation of debris and dirt in the joint. Although expansion joints are small components of bridges’ superstructure, their malfunction can result in major structural problems and when coupled with thermal stresses, the demand on the structural elements could be further amplified. Intuitively, these additional demands are expected to even worsen if one considers potential future temperature rise due to climate change. Indeed, it has been speculated that climate change is likely to have negative effect on bridges worldwide. However, to date there has been no serious attempts to quantify this effect on a larger spatial scale with no studies pertaining to the integrity of the main load carrying girders. In this study, we attempt to quantify the effect of clogged joints and climate change on failure of the superstructure of a class of steel bridges around the U.S. We surprisingly find that potentially most of the main load carrying girders, in the analyzed bridges, could reach their ultimate capacity when subjected to service load and future climate changes. We further discover that out of nine U.S. regions, the most vulnerable bridges, in a descending order, are those located in the Northern Rockies & Plains, Northwest and Upper Midwest. Ultimately, this study proposes an approach to establish a priority order of bridge maintenance and repair to manage limited funding among a vast inventory in an era of climate change.

Klíčová slova:

Autumn – Built structures – Climate change – Concrete – Spring – Summer – Thermal stresses – Winter


1. National Academy of Engineering. NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering. In: 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century [Internet]. 2018. Available:

2. ASCE. Infrastructure Report Card 2017—Bridges [Internet]. ASCE; 2017 pp. 1–4. Available:

3. ASCE. Report Card History. In: ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card [Internet]. 2017 [cited 20 Aug 2018]. Available:

4. Dunker KF, Rabbat BG. Why America’s Bridges Are Crumbling. Scientific American. 1993268: 66–72.

5. Lichtenstein AG. The Silver Bridge Collapse Recounted. Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities. 1993;7: 249–261. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)0887-3828(1993)7:4(249)

6. Mahmoud HN. Upgrading our infrastructure: Targeting repairs for locks, dams and bridges. In: The Conversation [Internet]. 2017 [cited 9 Jun 2018]. Available:

7. FHWA. Questions and Answers on the National Bridge Inspection Standards 23 CFR 650 Subpart C—National Bridge Inspection Standards—Bridge Inspection—Safety—Bridges & Structures—Federal Highway Administration [Internet]. [cited 9 Jun 2018]. Available:

8. FHWA. National Bridge Inventory 2017—Bridge Inspection—Safety—Bridges & Structures—Federal Highway Administration [Internet]. 2017 [cited 23 Jul 2018]. Available:

9. ARTBA. Frequently Asked Questions—The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). In: The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) [Internet]. 2018 [cited 10 Jun 2018]. Available:

10. Bureau UC. Cartographic Boundary Files—Shapefile [Internet]. 2016 [cited 8 Aug 2019]. Available:

11. Chris Carroll, Andrew Juneau. Repair of Concrete Bridge Deck Expansion Joints Using Elastomeric Concrete. Practice Periodical on Structural Design and Construction. 2015;20: 04014038. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)SC.1943-5576.0000235

12. Wells D, Meade BW, Hopwood T, Palle S. A Programmatic Approach to Long-Term Bridge Preventive Maintenance. 2017; doi: 10.13023/ktc.rr.2016.22

13. Rager K. Thermal Loading Analysis in Plate Girder Bridge Using Health Monitoring And Finite Element Simulations. Colorado State University. 2016.

14. Harper-Smith AL, Karly R, Mahmoud HN, Atadero R, Martinez J, Wang T, et al. Thermal Effects on Deck Joint Movement in Colorado. TRB Annual Meeting 2018. Available:

15. Rogers CE, Bouvy A, Schiefer P. Alleviating the Effects of Pavement Growth on Structures. Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT); 2012 Jan p. 14.

16. Chen Q. Effects of thermal loads on Texas steel bridges. 2008; Available:

17. Wuebbles D.J., Fahey D.W., Hibbard K.A., Dokken D.J., Stewart B.C., Maycock T.K. Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I. Washington, DC, USA: USGCRP; 2017 p. 470.

18. Asam S, Bhat C, Dix B, Bauer J, Gopalakrishna D. Climate Change Adaption Guide for Transportation Systems Management Operations and Maintenance [Internet]. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation—Federal Highway Administration; 2015 p. 86. Available:

19. Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate. Adapting Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Practice to a Changing Climate [Internet]. Olsen JR, editor. Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers; 2015. doi: 10.1061/9780784479193

20. Kumar L, Taylor S. Exposure of coastal built assets in the South Pacific to climate risks. Nature Climate Change. 2015;5: 992–996. doi: 10.1038/nclimate2702

21. Allen MR, Fernandez SJ, Fu JS, Olama MM. Impacts of climate change on sub-regional electricity demand and distribution in the southern United States. Nature Energy. 2016;1: 16103. doi: 10.1038/nenergy.2016.103

22. Peduzzi P. Flooding: Prioritizing protection? Nature Climate Change. 2017;7: 625–626. doi: 10.1038/nclimate3362

23. Underwood BS, Guido Z, Gudipudi P, Feinberg Y. Increased costs to US pavement infrastructure from future temperature rise. Nature Climate Change. 2017;7: 704–707. doi: 10.1038/nclimate3390

24. Davenport C. Trump’s Infrastructure Plan May Ignore Climate Change. It Could Be Costly. The New York Times. 11 Feb 2018. Available: Accessed 8 Aug 2018.

25. Chinowsky P, Helman J, Gulati S, Neumann J, Martinich J. Impacts of climate change on operation of the US rail network. Transport Policy. 2017; doi: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2017.05.007

26. Neumann JE, Price J, Chinowsky P, Wright L, Ludwig L, Streeter R, et al. Climate change risks to US infrastructure: impacts on roads, bridges, coastal development, and urban drainage. Climatic Change. 2015;131: 97–109. doi: 10.1007/s10584-013-1037-4

27. Setsobhonkul S, Kaewunruen S, Sussman JM. Lifecycle Assessments of Railway Bridge Transitions Exposed to Extreme Climate Events. Front Built Environ. 2017;3. doi: 10.3389/fbuil.2017.00035

28. EEA. Adaptation of transport to climate change in Europe—Challenges and options across transport modes and stakeholders [Internet]. Luxembourg: European Enviornmental Agency; 2014. Report No.: 08/2014. Available:

29. FHWA. Recording and Coding Guide for the Structure Inventory and Appraisal of the Nation’s Bridges. 1995 p. 124. Report No.: FHWA-PD-96-001.

30. Fisher JW, Barsom JM. Evaluation of Cracking in the Rib-to-Deck Welds of the Bronx–Whitestone Bridge. Journal of Bridge Engineering. 2016;21: 1–10. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)BE.1943-5592.0000823

31. Heng J, Zheng K, Kaewunruen S, Zhu J, Baniotopoulos C. Dynamic Bayesian network-based system-level evaluation on fatigue reliability of orthotropic steel decks. Engineering Failure Analysis. 2019;105: 1212–1228. doi: 10.1016/j.engfailanal.2019.06.092

32. Heng J, Zheng K, Kaewunruen S, Baniotopoulos C. Stochastic Traffic-Based Fatigue Life Assessment of Rib-to-Deck Welding Joints in Orthotropic Steel Decks with Thickened Edge U-Ribs. Applied Sciences. 2019;9: 20. doi: 10.3390/app9132582

33. GFDL. Coupled Physical Model, CM3. In: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory [Internet]. 2019 [cited 8 Aug 2018]. Available:

34. NOAA. Climate at a Glance | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) [Internet]. 2018 [cited 24 Jul 2018]. Available:

35. Salmon CG, Johnson JE. Steel Structures: Design and Behavior [Internet]. Fourth. New York: Harper Collins; 1996. Available:

36. Vasdravellis G, Uy B, Tan EL, Kirkland B. Behaviour and design of composite beams subjected to sagging bending and axial compression. Journal of Constructional Steel Research. 2015;110: 29–39. doi: 10.1016/j.jcsr.2015.03.010

37. Kaewunruen S, Wu L, Goto K, Najih YM. Vulnerability of Structural Concrete to Extreme Climate Variances. Climate. 2018;6: 40. doi: 10.3390/cli6020040

38. Childs D. Temperature Effects in Bridge Decks. In: Bridge Design & Assessment [Internet]. 2018 [cited 29 Aug 2018]. Available:

39. AASHTO. LRFD Bridge Design Specifications. Sixth. Washington, DC: American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials; 2012.

40. Ruddy JL, Ioannides SA. Rules Of Thumb For Steel Design. American Society of Civil Engineers; 2004. pp. 1–7. doi: 10.1061/40700(2004)173

41. Chen W-F, Duan L, editors. Bridge Engineering Handbook. 2 edition. CRC Press; 2000.

42. Caltrans. Bridge Design Practice Manual BDP [Internet]. Caltrans; 2015. Available:

43. Hatfield FJ. Engineering for Rehabilitation of Historic Metal Truss Bridges. 2001; 6.

44. Ferris HW. Historical Record Dimension and Properties ROLLED SHAPES, Steel and Wrought Iron Beams & Columns, As Rolled in U.S.A., Period 1873 to 1952 With Sources as Noted. American Institute of Steel Construction; 1954.

Článek vyšel v časopise


2019 Číslo 10
Nejčtenější tento týden