A relatively new approach for designing or retrofitting highway bridges in seismic zones involves isolating the superstructure from the substructure. Through experimental and analytical investigations, this study evaluates the effectiveness of isolating one particular bridge: a highly skewed, prestressed concrete, slab-on-girder bridge. Dynamic testing of the bridge was performed using the pullback, quick-release method. A three dimensional finite element model of the bridge was created. It was refined, or calibrated, to match experimentally determined natural frequencies and mode shapes. Time-history analyzes, using site-specific acceleration records, were conducted for the seismically isolated bridge model and an identical, non-isolated bridge model.

For the bridge under consideration, seismic isolation was found to appreciably reduce forces that the bridge substructure and foundation must resist. Seismic design forces for pier columns were reduced between 43% and 86%. The results of this study clearly show that seismic isolation is an effective means of reducing earthquake forces on bridges.

Report Date


Report Number


Digital Object Identifier



The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors who are responsible for the facts and accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, nor the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification or regulation. The inclusion of manufacturer names or trade names are for identification purposes and are not to be considered an endorsement.