Unterweger H. ; page  1 
MODELLING OF BRIDGE DECKS INCLUDING CROSS SECTION DISTORTION USING SIMPLIFIED SPATIAL BEAM METHODS
Harald Unterweger Institute of Steel Structures, Technical University Graz, Austria
Keywords: Steel Bridges, Composite Bridges, Global Analysis, Bridge Deck Modelling
Abstract: Nowadays exact modelling of a complete steel or composite bridge structure  using ﬁnite elements  is possible, because of the rapid development of computer power. Neverthe less this leads in general to nonacceptable costs in practical work, due to the fact of the enor mous amount of trafﬁc load cases in complex structures and the often changes of the geometric proportions during the design process. Moreover the design procedures for members are based on nominal stresses without secondary stresses. Therefore simple universal methods for mo delling the whole bridge structure are necessary, which can be combined with local ﬁnite ele ment models if necessary. The paper gives some examples for global modelling of bridge decks under trafﬁc loads, including complex structures and behaviour. The stresses are com pared with results of more reﬁnded calculations, using the ﬁnite element method.
1 INTRODUCTION
The main problem in the structural analysis of steel and composite bridges is the mo delling of the bridge deck, consisting of an immense number of plates, stiffeners, cross beams and diaphragms acting together. The current design procedure in practice, shown in ﬁgure 1, is therefore a combination of different models on two different levels. On the one hand a global model consisting of the whole structure including its bearings and foundations if relevant and on the other hand local models for individual parts of the structure.
Fig. 1 Typical Bridge Modelling; combination of global (Mglob) and local models (Miloc).
Unterweger H. ; page  2 
In the global model the individual components can be summed up by “global elements” provided that they have an equivalent stiffness (e.g. longitudinal stiffeners of the slab “smeared”; beam elements representing a main girder consisting of ﬂanges and web). The results of the global analysis are longitudinal and shear stresses of the deck cross section, which also act on the local models. They are the basis of the design of the individual members. In practice the knowledge of the stresses in the edges (1 to 6 in Fig. 1) is sufﬁcient. If plastic member resistances are taken into account (e.g. for the webs of girders) the stresses are summed up by internal forces for each individual girder. Local models involve only parts of the bridge. Due to their limited size the individual components are modelled in detail and all the relevant effects, which are not visible in the glo bal model, can be treated. The boundary conditions and actions must consider the global beha viour of the structure. Therefore the interaction of data between local and global models is necessary. In general local models in practice can be devided into three groups:
– local models for calculation of additional forces and stresses of the components, e.g. local bending of the bridge slab due to trafﬁc loads
– local models to determine the stress distribution in a component in detail, e.g. introduction of concentrated forces in the plates and stiffeners, e.g. surrounding of bearings or cable anchor ages of stayed bridges
– local models for determining the reduced resistances of components due to stability effects, e.g. buckling of webs, lateral torsional buckling of girder ﬂanges
– local models for design check of complex behaviour, including simple design formulas based
on nominal stresses of the global model, e.g. buckling of webs, fatigue veriﬁcation of details
2 POSSIBLE CONCEPTS OF THE FUTURE
2.1 Global detailed model Due to the stormy developments in computer technology a detailed model using ﬁnite
elements of the whole structure is possible. Because of the following aspects this procedure is not necessarily more reliable than the simpliﬁed procedure with additional local models:
– the load models used in bridge design are also more or less estimations and simpliﬁcations
of the reality, e.g. exact predictions of trafﬁc loads in 100 years (lifetime of the structure) are
hardly not possible; simpliﬁed temperature ﬁelds
– correct selection of imperfections (geometric imperfections, residual stresses) for plate ele
ments, which are important for stability effects, because they have a wide scatter in reality
– for a realistic determination of the stress ﬁelds all the individual components (e.g. stiffeners) in the regions of introduction of single loads (e.g. cross bracings) must be modelled in detail
– ﬁnding out the relevant load combination, especially the trafﬁc load conﬁguration  for all the individual elements  is very complex
– dealing with secondary (geometric) stresses, usual neglected due to ductile behaviour of the elements, is not familiar for the designer
– non compatibility with current simpliﬁed procedures for plate buckling and fatigue, based on nominal stresses (elimination of secondary stresses necessary)
– enormous amount of data and computing time
– results hardly to verify and difﬁculties to ﬁnd errors, due to the great complexity
However for special studies a detailed global model  at least in a limited region (sub model technique)  seems useful, as for instance:
– limited study of sensible parts of a bridge, especially for limited accidental load cases, where nonlinear behaviour is important
– assessment of existing structures. For a limited amount of components, esecially if compared
Unterweger H. ; page  3 
and calibrated with tests and measurements
– studies with regard to the evaluation and reasons of damages
– calibration of simpliﬁed models with selected load cases
2.2 Integration of local and global models A combination of one or more global simple models with local models seems the best
strategy for economic and conﬁdent solutions in the design process. The main advantages are:
– this concept corresponds with the engeneering concept of the design process; starting with
simple global models with reduced elements, which include only the relevant loading pathes. Therefore changes of the geometry of the structure, e.g. stiffness and number of cross frames
are easy to do. Afterwards more detailed local models are used, e.g. for the determination of quantity and situation of stiffeners
– enormous saving of data, because of the regular pattern of constructional details over the
length of the bridge. Therefore the local models of a part of a bridge are with little changes re levant for the whole structure, e.g. modelling local bending of the slab due to trafﬁc load
The accuracy of the concept mainly depends of the interaction of the global and local models. That means:
– correct modelling of the stiffnesses of the local components in the global model
– correct boundary conditions and global stresses for the local models Especially the interaction of data between different models should be the main soft ware developments of the future. Following this concept means that also in the future the engineer makes the decisions of the individual models and the degree of detailing; but the time consuming and often faulty manual process of data change between the individual models is done by the computer.
2.3 Suggested solution
Based on the proceedings in practical bridge design a general concept for all types of bridge decks is actually developed by the author. The main features are:
– application of conventional software for spatial beams including shear deformations with additional moduls for automatic preprocessing of trafﬁc load conﬁgurations and auto matic superposition of load cases (e.g. [1])
– linear elastic analysis due to the enormous amount of trafﬁc load cases, which allow superposition of individual load cases. Second order effects (e.g. arches, truss chords) can be approximately taken into account if the minimum axial forces of a ﬁrst calculation are taken into account in the stiffness of the elements
distortion of bridge deck (deformation cross bracing)
slab  global bending effects
Fig. 2 Global analysis of bridge decks  effects which must be considered.
Unterweger H. ; page  4 
The main demand for modelling the global behaviour of a bridge deck is that the fol lowing effects can be taken into account (ﬁgure 2):
– local bending of directly loaded main girders, because of the distances between cross bracings
– distortion of the bridge deck due to deformation of the cross bracings
– global slab bending effects
– warping of the bridge deck, which leads to restraint forces in the bearings The basic idea in global modelling is, that the structural detailing also depends on the type of action (ﬁgure 3). It is easier to make a suitable model only for one type of action  limi ted to the relevant loading paths  than for all types of action. For secondary actions, like tem peratur gradient or slab weight the whole bridge deck acts as one beam.
For trafﬁc loads every girder is modelled as a single beam. For the determination of the bending stiffness of the girders (I _{b} ) the effective with of the deck plate (bottom plate) must be estimated, because it also depends on load conﬁguration. In practice a constant value for all types of trafﬁc load conﬁgurations  including shear lag and plate buckling effects if relevant 
is used. Neglecting shear lag effects the effective with on either side of the girder is in general
equal to half the distance to the next girder. The minimum value for the effective with is one third of the distance to the next girder in case of pure torsion of a box girder (model with two single girders), following folded plate theory. The torsion stiffness of box girders (I _{t} ) can be either modelled by a torsional beam in the center of the box or by split up equally (0,5 I _{t} ) to the outer girders (in cases of two or three girders), as suggested in [2].
Unterweger H. ; page  5 
The cross bracings and diaphragms are modelled by using beams including shear deformation (I _{b} , A _{s} ). A comparison study on different bridge decks with exact FE  calcula tions showed that they are suitable to consider their deformation behaviour. Based on these studies the shear stiffnesses of the global elements representing the diaphragms are determined as shown in example 1. Important for practical work is, that for one type of action  especially trafﬁc loads  only one global model is used, because automatic superposition of the individual load cases than can be used (more complicate if trafﬁc loads are split in bending and torsional part with different models, as suggested in the literature). The level of accuracy and degree of detailing of a model for one type of action should be evaluated for every component in an engeneering view. That means that if the calculated stresses of that model are only a little part of the design stresses the model error can be higher (e.g. stresses due to temperature are 13 % of the design stresses of a component ; if the model error for temperature stresses is 50 % this means only an error of 7 % of the design stresses, which may be tolerable due to the uncertanties in the load model).
3 GLOBAL BRIDGE DECK MODELLING – EXAMPLES The aim of the three selected examples is to show the great efﬁciency of simple global models based on spatial beams. The main results for trafﬁc loads are presented and compared with more exact solutions (FE  models with software package ABAQUS [5] ).
3.1 Example 1: Railway box girder bridge with deformable cross bracings Example 1 (ﬁgure 4) is a single span railway box girder bridge under live loads on one track (simpliﬁed load conﬁguration as investigated in [3] ). The load case L can be devided into a symmetrical and antimetrical part. The behaviour under the symmetrical part (L1) is very simple, leading to bendig of the whole bridge deck, and is not shown in the following. The antimetrical load part (L2) was used for a study, where the number of cross bracings (one or
three) and their stiffnesses was varied. The shear stiffness of the bracings is expressed in form of an equivalent thickness of a fully plate.
b
beam element I _{b} = ∞ , A _{s}
central beam I _{t} main girder I _{b}
Fig. 4 Example 1: Single span railway box girder bridge under torsional live loads; system, load cases and simple beam model.
Unterweger H. ; page  6 
The simple model for global analysis is a grillage. It consists of the two main girders with bending stiffness I _{b} based on an effective with of deck and bottom plate of one third of the girder distance (following folded plate theory). A third beam between the girders has only a torsional stiffness I _{t} and represents the torsional stiffness of the whole box section (St. Venant). The cross bracings connecting the girders are modelled by using beam elements with shear deformation. The determination of the axial forces in the diagonals is shown in ﬁgure 5. Due to the fact that the shear force in the equivalent beam element is twice as in reality, the equivalent shear area, as recommended in the literature for truss elements, must also be doubled. The FE calculations conﬁrmed this assumption.
Fig. 5 Cross bracing of a box girder bridge; Determination of axial forces in the diagonal members (only due to ∆ M _{t} ) and equivalent beam element for global analysis.
a.) a.)
exact / t* = 2 cm exact / t* = 0,5 cm exact / t* = 0,3 cm
model / t* = 2 cm
model / t* = 0,5 cm
model / t* = 0,3 cm
Fig. 6 Example 1  Normal stresses σ at the bottom of girder 1 due to load case L2 for system
with with a.) a.) three three cross cross bracings; bracings; b.) b.) one one cross cross bracing. bracing.
Unterweger H. ; page  7 
cross bracings (axis b, c) shear stif. ^{1}^{.}^{)} 
calcu 
w _{1}_{c} [mm] load case L2 / L 2.) 
cross bracing  axial forces [kN] 
^{σ} 
1u 
 
load case V 

lation 
[kN / cm ^{2} ] 

model 
axis b 
axis c 
axis b 
axis f2 
axis c 

t* = 2 cm 
model 1 
1,80 / 38,9 
276 
306 
6,62 
8,50 
8,59 

“exact” 
1,95 / 39,0 
286 
318 
6,44 
8,24 
8,31 

∆ 
[%] 
 
7,7 /  0,3 
 3,5 % 
 3,8 % 
2,8 % 
3,2 % 
3,4 % 

t* = 0,5 cm 
model 1 
2,10 / 39,2 
267 
312 
6,72 
8,58 
8,65 

“exact” 
2,17 / 39,2 
279 
322 
6,50 
8,28 
8,34 

∆ 
[%] 
 
3,2 /  0,2 
 4,3 % 
 3,1 % 
3,4 % 
3,6 % 
3,7 % 

t* = 0,3 cm 
model 1 
2,35 / 39,4 
260 
314 
6,81 
8,65 
8,71 

“exact” 
2,31 / 39,4 
275 
325 
6,57 
8,32 
8,38 

∆ 
[%] 
1,7 / 0,1 
 5,5 % 
3,4 % 
3,7 % 
4,0 % 
3,9 % 

t* = 0,1 cm 
model 1 
3,54 / 40,6 
240 
310 
7,15 
9,01 
9,08 

“exact” 
2,97 / 40,0 
260 
328 
6,77 
8,53 
8,56 

∆ 
[%] 
19,2 / 1,5 
 7,7 % 
 
5,5 % 
5,6 % 
5,6 % 
6,1 % 
1.) equivalent thickness of a diaphragm, t* = 2 cm in axis a. 2.) midspan vertical deﬂection of main beam for load case L2 and L respectively.
Table 1 Example 1 cross bracings in axis b and c with different shear stiffnesses; comparison of the main results.
cross 
calcu 
^{w} 1b 
cross bracing force axis c [kN] 
^{σ} 
1u 
 
load case V 

bracings 
lation 
axis b [mm] load case L2 / L 
[kN / cm ^{2} ] 

(axis c) 
model 

shear stif. 
axis b 
axis f2 
axis c 

t* = 2 cm 
model 1 
3,30 / 30,0 
675 
8,06 
8,49 
7,12 

“exact” 
3,38 / 30,1 
690 
7,89 
8,23 
6,86 

∆ 
[%] 
 2,4 /  0,3 
 2,2 % 
2,2 % 
3,2 % 
3,8 % 

t* = 0,5 cm 
model 1 
4,03 / 30,7 
655 
8,23 
8,73 
7,44 

“exact” 
3,65 / 30,4 
680 
7,95 
8,32 
6,99 

∆ 
[%] 
10,4 / 1,3 
 3,7 % 
3,5 % 
4,9 % 
6,4 % 
Table 2 Example 1 only cross bracing in axis c with different shear stiffness; comparison of the main results.
Some of the results of the simple grillage model in comparison with the reﬁned FE calculations, using shell elements for the plates of the structure, are presented in the following. In ﬁgure 6 the longitudinal normal stresses at the bottom of the girder (in axis 1u) due to the antimetrical load case are shown (bending and warping effects). The differencies seem high, but in addition with the symmetrical load case  shown in table 1 and 2  the resulting stresses
Unterweger H. ; page  8 
of the simple model only differ from the exact values by 3  5 %. A similar tendency can be seen for the maximum vertical deﬂections of the girder (in axis 1) at midspan (for 3 cross bra cings) and at axis b (for 1 cross bracing). The differencies in an extent of 2  10 % for the anti metrical load part L2 disappear for load case L (< 1 %). The comparison of the axial forces in the diagonals of the bracings of the simple model are also in accordance with the reﬁned model (differencies in general 3  5 %). These results show that the simple beam model gives sufﬁcient accuracy, also for cross bracings with high shear deformation.
3.3 Example 2: Plate girder bridge; Restraint forces due to warping of the cross section Example 2 (ﬁgure 7) deals with a highway composite plate girder bridge under one sided trafﬁc loads, investigated in [4]. Due to warping of the open section nonnegligible hori contal restraint forces on the ﬁxed bearings are introduced.
A
45 m
A h
A
h
0,2
LL moveable bearings
2 beams (I
h M
space frame including torsional stiffness Fig. 7 Example 2: Highway composite plate girder bridge; Different global models for the effect of horicontal restraint forces at the bearings due to nonsymmetric trafﬁc loads.
Unterweger H. ; page  9 
To take this effect into account a more detailed model of the bridge deck, is necessary. In ﬁgure 7 three different models with increasing accuracy are shown
– model 1, a plane grillage  as used for example 1  is not suitable to calculate the restraint
forces at the bearings.
– model 2 is a plane grillage  as in model 1  with an additional crossgirder at the ﬁxed bear
ings, having an inﬁnite torsional stiffness. This cross girder represents the ﬁxed bearings, pre venting warping deformation. Knowing the height of the shear centre, the restraint forces can be calculated using the torsional moments of the cross girder.
– model 3 is a spatial grillage consisting of the two main girders with vertical bending stiffness
(I _{y} ) and a third beam in axis of the shear centre, representing the horicontal stiffness of the
bridge deck I _{z} . At the bearings cross frames connect this three beams. With this model the essential deformation behaviour of the bridge deck due to the restraint forces can be repre sented.
– model 3 t includes also the torsional stiffness of the bridge deck. Every main girder gets half
of the torsional stiffness (0,5 · I _{t} ) and additional cross girders across the bridge length are nec
essary.
In ﬁgure 8 and table 3 the main results for the investigated trafﬁc load case for all four models are presented and compared; on the one hand the horicontal restraint forces at the ﬁxed bearings and on the other hand the bending moments of the main girder 1.
model 
horicontal bearing force (in axis FL) 
main girder 1 moments M _{y} 

A 
H 
[ % ] 
M 
m 
[ % ] 
^{M} 
FL 
[ % ] 

[kN] 
[kN / m] 

mod. 1 
0 
0 
10240 
100 
0 
0 

mod. 2 
1173 
121 
8663 
84,6 
3155 
30,8 

mod. 3 mod. 3  t 
1070 
111 
8799 
85,9 
2881 
28,1 

966 
100 
8570 
83,7 
2600 
25,4 
Table 3 Example 2  Comparison of the main results for the individual models.
_{M} _{y}
4000
2000
0
2000
4000
6000
8000
10000
12000
[ kNm ]
Modell 1 , LF
Modell 2 , LF
Modell 3 , lF
Modell 3 T ,
Fig. 8 Example 2  bending moments of the main girder 1 for the individual models.
Unterweger H. ; page  10 
From the engineering point of view for the design of the girders also model 1 seems sufﬁcient, but for the design of the bearings the very high horicontal forces of about 1000 kN cannot be neglected. Model 3, including the horicontal bending stiffness of the bridge deck, gives realistic results and also allows considering the ﬁnite stiffness of bearings and piers. The simple model 2 overestimates the restraint forces and is suitable for a ﬁrst estimation of this effect, but cannot consider ﬁnite stiffness of the bearings. The very high horicontal restraint forces on the ﬁxed bearings due to nonsymmetric vertical trafﬁc loads diminish mostly in the case of box girders, due to the small warping defor mations.
3.4 Example 3: Central arch highway bridge Example 3 shows a very complex structure (ﬁgure 9), ﬁrstly studied due to a fatigue failure of the horicontal bracing [6, 7] and afterwards veriﬁed for the new trafﬁc loads of Eurocode. It is a central arch highway bridge in Salzburg / Austria with non parallel bearings on the two abutments. The bridge deck consists of two main girders (3,7 m high) forming a box section and two secondary outside girders with reduced heights (1,2 m), supported by deform able cross bracings. The bridge deck also acts as a tie rod for the arch. The high deformation of the cross bracings leads also to nonnegligible global bending effects of the cross girders.
horicontal
bracing
Fig. 9 Example 3: Central arch highway bridge in Salzburg / Austria.
Unterweger H. ; page  11 
To limit the computational effort a detailed FE model (ﬁgure 10) deals for calibration of a simple spatial beam model, for selected simpliﬁed load cases. The beam model, shown in ﬁgure 10 and 11, consists of the four main girders with vertical bending stiffness I _{b}_{z} and cross section area A and a central beam with torsional stiffness I _{t} and reduced horicontal bending stiffness of the whole bridge deck I _{b}_{y} . The different heights of the neutral axis between inner and outer girders are taken into account using rigid vertical excenters (ﬁgure 11). The cross girders, including the girders at the cross bracings, are modelled as beams, supported by the main girders with their horicontal stiffnesses (I _{b} ), considering an effective with of the deck plate. The determination of the equivalent stiffness of the cross bracing elements, neglecting the bending stiffness of the cross girder, is shown in ﬁgure 11. The high deformation of the diagonals connecting the inner girders with the arch hangers  only under symmetric loads  are modelled seperatly using a spring element (or equivalent short strut element with reduced area). Using this reﬁned beam model for the cross bracings including the cross beams with their bending stiffnesses leads to accurate predictions of the global bending effects of the cross girders compared with the detailed FE  model.
Fig. 10
Example 3  overview of simple beam model and reﬁned FE  model.
In the following only some limited results of member stresses, for simple beam model and reﬁned FE  model, are shown. To show the global load bearing behaviour the results in general are presented in form of inﬂuence lines for different members. In ﬁgure 12 the axial force of a diagonal of the horicontal bracing is investigated. In the beam model the diagonal force corresponds with the torsional moment of the central beam (formula of Bredt). The results show a very good agreement between simple beam model and FE  model. Due to the
Unterweger H. ; page  12 
nonparallel bearing axes the alternative model of replacing the torsional stiffness of the central beam by adding half of this value to the inner box girder beams leads to nonsufﬁcient results.
Fig. 11 Example 3  determination of equivalent stiffnesses of the cross bracing; a.) global elements with effective shear area for cross bracing; b.) equivalent spring due to deformation of hanger arch action; c.) review of all global elements.
In ﬁgure 13 the inﬂuence lines of the axial force of the outer strut of the cross bracing, supporting the outer main girder, is shown. These results also indicate the bending behaviour of the outer main girder. For comparison also the results with nondeformable cross bracings are shown. In ﬁgure 14 the vertical deformations of the cross section near midspan for simpliﬁed trafﬁc loads on main girder b and a & b respectively are shown. The results of the simple model seem sufﬁcient. Therefore also the global bending moments of the cross girders are predicta ble.
Unterweger H. ; page  13 
Fig. 12
Example 3; Inﬂuence lines in main girder axes of axial force in the diagonal of the horicontal bracing in the area between axis 2 and 3.
Fig. 13
Example 3; Inﬂuence lines in axis d of the axial force in the outer strut of the cross bracing in axis 6.
Summing up, it may be said that the simple spatial beam model shows for nearly all members sufﬁcient accuracy and permits an automatic calculation of the enormous amount of trafﬁc load cases, non practicable with the realistic FE  model.
Unterweger H. ; page  14 
Fig. 14
Example 3; vertical deformations of the bridge deck near midspan (axis 6) due to vertical single loads on girder b and a & b (in axes 1  12) respectively.
4. CONCLUSIONS The main effort of this paper was to show that also complex bridge deck behaviour can be modelled using simple spatial beams with equivalent stiffnesses. The degree of detailing of the global model also depends on the type of action. It seems useful to work with different global models for the different type of actions (e.g. trafﬁc loads, temperature, wind), which show only the relevant loading pathes of the structure. For estima tion of the accuracy of the individual global models their portion on the overall design stresses of the individual members should be taken into account. That means that for nonrelevant actions the model error can be higher. The deformation of cross bracings can be taken into account using beam elements with shear deformation. For box girders the conventional shear area of bracings must be doubled to predict the real behaviour (example 1). The warping effect of bridge decks can also be taken into account. In this case the gril lage of the bridge deck must be extended by an additional beam in axis of the shear center, rep resenting the horicontal bending stiffness of the bridge deck.
Acknowledgement The author would like to thank his colleague Dr. Ofner for the FE analysis.
References [1] Program “RM SPACEFRAME”, TDV GmbH., Graz/ Austria [2] Hambly E.C.: Bridge Deck Behaviour,2nd edition, 1991. [3] Resinger F.: Der dünnwandige, einzellige Kastenträger mit einfachsymmetrischem, ver formbarem Rechteckquerschnitt, doctor thesis, 1956. [4] Resinger F.: Längszwängungen  eine Ursache von Brückenlagerschäden, in “Der Bauingenieur”, 46. Jahrgang, Heft 9, 1971. [5] Program “ABAQUS”, Hibbit, Karlsson & Sorensen, Version 5.5, 1996. [6] Greiner R., Ofner R., Unterweger H.: Betriebsbeanspruchung des Torsionsverbandes einer Straßenbrücke  Analyse eines aktuellen Anwendungsfalles, in “Neue Entwicklungen im konstruktiven Ingenierbau”, Universität Karlsruhe, 1994. [7] Unterweger H.: Fatigue failure on the bracing of a steel arch highway bridge  failure description, theoretical investigations and repair, in Proceedings of Int. Conference on Advances in Steel Structures, Hongkong 1996.
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