Performance Characteristics of In-Service Bridges for Enhancing Load Ratings: Leveraging Refined Analysis Methods

Monday, April 12, 2021 - 18:15

Bridge load rating assesses the safe live load carrying capacity of an existing or newly designed structure. In addition to load rating with previously defined standard load rating vehicles, the Federal Highway Administration issued additional guidance to states related to rating requirements for all the bridges with respect to specialized hauling vehicles and emergency vehicles that must be met by the end of 2022. It is recognized that the load effects (bending moment and shear) produced by these vehicle types on certain bridge types and spans might be greater than those caused by the previous rating vehicles. Therefore, a number of bridges within VDOT’s inventory may require posting when rated with these specialized vehicles.  The goal of this study was to assess the likelihood of an increase in load rating factors through refined analysis methods for the bridge classes potentially vulnerable to load ratings under consideration of the new federal regulations and when using conventional, simplified equations for load distribution factors. In particular, the study focused on the evaluation of live load distribution factors for girder bridges and effective widths for distributing live loads in slab bridges through refined analysis. Three bridge classes (simple span steel girder bridges, reinforced concrete T-beam bridges, and concrete slab bridges) were selected for this refined analysis. This report can be downloaded from the Virginia Transportation Research Council web site at


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