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Assessment and strengthening of reinforced concrete bridges with half-joint deterioration


Existing Niagara-type concrete cantilever bridges, which in Italy are called Gerber bridges, suffer from degradation due to reinforcement corrosion and a consequent reduced load-bearing capacity. The assessment of these structures is therefore an important part of the procedures for analyzing the state of existing bridges and any interventions required for their retrofitting. In particular, safety against failure of the half-joint must be evaluated with respect to the behavior of the entire bridge and its state of conservation, determining what the conditions are that lead to failure, in terms of loads, state of stress, and possibly cracking state. This evaluation has to be carried out considering the configuration of the bridge through local and global models, in the presence of the crossbeam between the main girders or the prestressing tendons that can modify the behavior of the Gerber saddle, compared to that expected for a simple dapped-end beam. To do this, it is necessary to combine the in situ investigations with reliable analytical and numerical models, which can correctly interpret the structural behavior of the bridge, determining the critical aspects for safety. The approach followed in this study was to combine the strut-and-tie models with nonlinear finite element models that can provide reliable information to the engineer who deals with the assessment and subsequently the conception of rehabilitation, in combination with in situ investigations and material tests. This was carried out through two different case studies in which the shape of the Gerber saddle, the presence of the crossbeam, and the presence of prestressing characterize the behavior and highlight the degree of safety and that of structural robustness. The results of the analyses carried out show that the presence of prestressing and a careful design with the use of large amounts of reinforcement can lead in some cases to high safety factors and consequently to a good level of robustness. They also show that the structural behavior can vary significantly according to the level of reinforcement corrosion: this is an aspect that can only be correctly assessed with the use of different models with different degrees of refinement. Finally, a proposal for global structural rehabilitation is presented by closing saddles, changing the static scheme to the continuous beam, and supplying external prestressing to strengthen the deck.