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Assessment of a Masonry Arch Bridge

Arthur Thorne MEng


Some 40,000 masonry arch bridges are in continual use by highways, railways and waterways, most of which are over 100 years old. From January 1999 the European Commission Directive 96/58/EEC requires all trunk road bridges to be capable of 40 tonne axle loadings. Objectives To obtain a greater understanding on the topic of arch bridges To undertake a problem that is similar to a real life engineering project To survey the bridge so that it can be dimensioned, then analysed To analyse the structure in order to determine a value for the weight limit To propose and investigate various strengthening techniques Survey The survey was conducted on 28/04/2007, and the AutoCAD drawing from the upstream side of the bridge is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 3 Equations for Mechanism Analysis

A graphical approach The spreadsheet that was used to find the locations of the hinges, was modified so that a value for live load and abutment thrust could be entered, and the maximum live load determined for the actual thickness of the arch ring. Heymanss Plastic Method Heyman constructed a set of tables for a quick analysis using figures for dead weight of the bridge, and geometry related to the overall rise of the arch. For the bridge in this project it was not possible to use these tables, so the equation on which the tables were based was used instead. RING Software Analysis The RING software was developed by the University of Sheffield and is based on the principles of the mechanism analysis. Several of the parameters required were unknown, and had to be assumed, an analysis to the extent of these unknowns is shown graphically below.

Figure 1 AutoCAD drawing on upstream side

Fullers construction The arch bridge is represented by its centre line, and the thrust line is also shown, calculated from the funicular polygon. The horizontal scale of the arch is now distorted, either by stretching or compressing each segment between the loading points, so that the line of thrust comprises of two straight lines. To equilibrate the loads all that needs to be done is to see if two straight lines can be drawn within this distorted arch. For the arch shown in Figure 2(c) this is only just possible, and so could not be done for an arch of smaller thickness. Comparing this with the actual thickness of the arch ring gives the geometrical factor of safety.
Figure 2 Fullers Construction

Figures 4 and 5 Effect of material properties

Figure 6 RING software location of hinges

Method of analysis Fullers Construction MEXE Pippards elastic method Heymans Plastic method A graphical approach Mechanism analysis Ring
Table 1 Summary of results

Maximum axle loading (kN) 93.2 98.4 95.1 160

Geometrical factor of safety 0.95

Pippards Elastic Method Pippard started off from his observation that a slight spread of the abutments would cause the formation of hinges, or pins, at the abutments. His analysis was an elastic one of the parabolic two-pin arch with a live load acting at the centre. He derived two expressions for the safe live load on a bridge, W1 and W2. The modified MEXE/MoT method The most widely used method for masonry arch assessment, the Military Engineering Experimental Establishment found that Pippards expression of W2 could be fitted to a nomogram so that a provisional axle loading can be read off immediately. It is then multiplied by a number of modifying factors, to give the final axle loading. However very small differences in the depth of fill alters the provisional axle loading greatly; it is this dubious nature of the MEXE method that has developed the need for a more accurate method of assessment. The Mechanism Analysis The method depends on the formation of four hinges to cause failure of the arch. Once the locations have been determined the set of equations from Figure 3 can be used to determine the thickness of arch ring (d) required for the given loading. The equations are formed merely by taking moments.

1.21 359.0

Conclusions As can be seen from the Table 1, the results do vary, mainly between the plastic and elastic analyses. As the results from the elastic analyses are so close together, (also Heymans plastic method), it would be argued that this range of results are the acceptable ones to use, and based on this evidence the weight limit restriction on the bridge could be increased to 33 Tonnes. The key to the plastic analyses, and to a certain extent the elastic ones, is determining what a suitable value for the geometrical factor of safety should be. A geometrical factor of safety of 2 seems to be the choice by Heyman and Pippard, but with more modern techniques and more accurate analyses this could possibly be relaxed. However Research into determining what the geometrical factor of safety should be is a necessity. Strengthening Techniques Two types of strengthening technique were investigated; a saddle and the ARCHTEC system. Applying a concrete saddle would have the greatest benefit to improving the lifetime of the bridge, it is also the cheapest option. However as there is little demand for an increased weight limit on this bridge, it would seem unnecessary for either technique to be applied.