Stress analyses were performed on continuous girder welded steel bridges on extended weights coal-haul routes. The tests were intended to determine whether extended weight coal trucks pose fatigue problems to those bridges. Measurements were performed by strain gaging selected bridges subject to high coal transport tonnages. Stress measurements were conducted on fatigue-prone weld details or test sites where high tensile stresses were anticipated. Test sites on the bridges were instrumented with strain gages. Strains induced by routine traffic including coal trucks were monitored for periods of one to two weeks. Unattended monitoring of the variable amplitude strain data was performed using rainflow counting. Eighteen successful tests were performed on 15 coal-haul route bridges and one interstate bridge.

The derived strain data are provided as stress histograms. Fatigue analyses were performed by expressing the stress histogram data as single-value equivalent stresses. The accumulated number of stress cycles was estimated using 3 different assumptions based upon variations in traffic. Accumulated stress cycles were determined over the current age of each weld detail and a projected service life of 75 years. Susceptibility to fatigue was determined by superimposing the equivalent resolved stresses and total number of cycles as accumulated damage on AASHTO fatigue design curves for the applicable structural details.

The fatigue analyses indicate that none of the test bridges with fatigue-prone weld details is susceptible to fatigue cracking either at their current age or over their project 75-year service lives. While coal trucks may induce high live stresses on those bridges, the number of those stress applications was not sufficient to pose fatigue problems. The equivalent resolved stresses measured on the interstate bridge were similar in magnitude to those measured on coal-haul routes. However, the number of stress cycles was greater for the interstate bridge than most of the coal-haul route bridges.

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