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Shock and Vibration
Volume 19 (2012), Issue 1, Pages 1-18

Effects of Blast Loading on Prestressed Girder Bridges

William F. Cofer, Debra S. Matthews, and David I. McLean

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Washington State Transportation Center, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA

Received 25 November 2009; Revised 15 June 2010

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Since the events of September 11th, increased attention has been given to the effects of blast loading on structures. Bridges are especially important due to their potentially critical role in the economy and for emergency response. Prestressed concrete highway bridges are very common, representing 11 percent of state bridges nationwide. Yet, very little is known about how prestressed concrete bridges respond to blast loading.

A finite element model of a precast, prestressed concrete girder was created and validated with two experimental blast tests. It was found that for an explosive event above or below the girder, numerical and empirical results were consistent.

The girder model was expanded to a four-girder, simple-span bridge model. Three different scenarios were examined at the midspan of the bridge: a blast between two girders above the deck, a blast centered on a girder above the deck, and a blast beneath the deck. The two load cases from above resulted in highly localized damage with the possibility for other sections of the bridge to be immediately reopened after the event. Results for the load case from below indicate that the slab will be heavily damaged but the girders will remain intact.