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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA

For safe & uninterrupted traffic flow, it is necessary to have the maintenance of bridges periodically. This maintenance is essentially consists of structural maintenance, rehabilitation & replacement. It provides the guidelines for the engineers to adopt cost effective decisions regarding maintenance work for bridges, canals, tunnels etc & it can be achieved by the optimal use of public funds. To achieve the desired result requires constant alertness & thorough inspection procedures.


It is necessary for the following factors,



The individual incharge of the bridge should have the following qualifications & should carry out the following responsibilities.

He should be a qualified Engineer having 10 years experience in bridge constriction & inspection He shall be responsible for thorough field inspections & recommendations for correction of defects, posting of restricted load or traffic etc. He must be very familiar with design & construction features of the bridge & he must be capable of analyzing the structural deficiency, taking serious actions to over come it.


The following are the categories of the bridge inspections.

Routine inspection.
Detailed inspection.

Special inspection.


The accessibility can be successfully achieved by Snooper-crawlers, which are movable vehicle-mounted crane arms, tailored to the needs of horizontal & vertical accessibility all along the span, substructure & bearings. For very long span, wide bridges with large navigational clearances, like the cable stayed suspension system or steel girder type, permanently installed traveling gantries and lifts are a must for inspection. For piers & pier frame of large height & bearings must be provided from the deck.


Snooper-Crawler & adjustable ladders. Rebound hammer for in situ assessment of the strength of concrete. Magnetic detector for measuring thickness of concrete cover, & for locating reinforcement bars. Acoustic crack detector & magnetic crack definer for detection & location of cracks in steel. Mechanical extensometer & transparent templates for reading off crack widths from surface contact. Hydraulic devices, pressure transducers or load cells for measurement of forces or pressures etc. Equipment for measuring vibrations. Electrical resistance meter.


Structures containing elements which are in good condition without any signs of deterioration & requiring no immediate action.

Structures containing elements which show signs of distress but which, under the operating conditions of the total structure may not having a serious defect & it can be rectified easily.
Structures containing elements which show signs of deterioration & which, due to distress under operating conditions, would affect structural integrity of the elements. Structures containing elements which show signs of progressive failure due to excessive loading, possibly resulting in use limitations or replacement.

Structures containing elements which have been under designed or poorly constructed or are overloaded & show cracks or deterioration.

Sl. No. 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09

Descriptions Not applicable New condition Good condition (No repairs needed) Generally good condition (Potential exists for minor maintenance) Fair condition (Potential exists for major Maintenance) Generally fair condition (Potential exists for minor rehabilitation) Marginal condition (Potential exists for major rehabilitation) Poor condition (Repair or rehabilitation required immediately) Critical condition (Need for repair or rehabilitation is urgent. Facility should be closed until the indicated repair is complete Critical condition (Facility is closed. Study should determine the feasibility for repair Critical condition (Facility is closed & is beyond repair

Rating N 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

10 11

1 0


In the area of performance, a numerical representation can be developed. This system is used in the following areas. Load performance. Safety performance. Remaining life.


Each bridge should be classified, inspected, & evaluated in relation to the various parameters which affect the structural integrity & performance characteristics of the structure. The primary goal is to achieve uniform interactive parameters to inspect bridges.


This is done to establish a uniform code number for each structure, which relates the structure location with respect to highway, district, highway route number & the number of kilometers from an established base point of the highway on which the structure is located. The type of bridge crossing should be noted & coded as a supplementary identification. Some of the crossings are identified as follows. Over water course. Over highway. Over railway line. Over land feature. For identifying the type of crossing, the structure should be identified by name. Once the preliminary identification of the structure & crossing type has been established, the identification of the type of structure should be made.

Three digit code for the identification of Type of Structure.

Sl.No . 01 1st Digit Reinforced concrete, determinate 2nd & 3rd Digits Slab

03 04

Reinforced concrete, continuous

Steel, determinate Steel, continuous

Stringer/Multi-beam or girder steel

Girder & floor beam system Tee beam

06 07

Prestressed concrete, determinate

Prestressed concrete, continous Timber

Box beam or Girder multi

Box beam or girder single Frame


Stone or masonry

Truss deck type


Alignment. Grade. Approach slabs. Guard rail. Embankment condition. Relief joints.


The bridge engineer & inspector should be familiar with terminologies included in bridges & should be well versed in the tools & devices used in bridges. He must have a thorough knowledge of safety precautions & should be properly organize, prepare the necessary documents for the inspection purposes. He shall have good knowledge in judging the construction materials which have used in the construction of bridges such as concrete, steel, timber etc. In addition to it he shall have knowledge in foundations on which the bridge piers will rest.


Salt Action: The use of salt contribute to weathering through recrystallization & it also increases the chemical attack on concrete & steel. Unsound Aggregates: These are structurally weak & readily cleavable. Leaching: Water seeping through cracks & voids in the hardened concrete leaches or dissolves the Ca(OH)2. It results in efflorescence encrustation at the surface of the cracks with evidence of CaCO3. Chemical Attack: A number of chemicals attack concrete.

Porous concrete absorbs water & creates high expansive pressures which results in cracking, scaling & spalling of concrete.

Wear or Abrasion: Traffic abrasion & impact cause wearing of bridge decks & kerbs, parapets, piers gets damaged by the scraping action of vehicles. Foundation Movements: These movements can cause serious cracking in structures. Shrinkage & Flexure forces: Shrinkage & flexure forces set up tensile stresses causing serious cracks. Rusted reinforcing steel: Corrosion of steel causes increase in its volume & exherts radial expansive pressure on concrete, leading to cracking & for further rusting.

Cracks in the column and beam.


Air & Moisture:

This will cause corrosion of steel, especially in a marine environment. Industrial Fumes: This fumes mainly cause deterioration of steel. De-icing Agents: Under damp conditions, it will attack steel causing corrosion. Sea-water & Mud: Unprotected steel piles if immersed in sea water & embedded in mud results in serious deterioration.

Thermal strains or Overloads:

Where movement is restrained, the steel may yield, buckles.

Extreme heat will cause serious steel members & loss of strength. deformation of

The vehicles may strike the steel columns causing damage to the bridge. beams,

Animal Wastes:
This will results in rusting of steel items.

Galvonic action:


These movements are caused by the movement of the supporting strata. In this case the soil deformations are caused by volume changes & settlement or subsidence in the soil or by a shear failure. The movements can be classified into four types. They are

Earth retaining structures such as abutments, retaining wall,piers will undergo this type of movement. Any type of structure which was not founded on a solid rock may undergo this type of movement.

Lateral Movements:

Vertical Movements:

Pile Settlements: Rotational Movements:


Any abrupt change in the alignment of the bridge indicates a movement of the pier or bearings. A sudden dip in the rail line is indicating the result of displacement of a pier or abutment. This inspection will not only help us to establish the existence of any settlement, but will also identity any differential settlements across the roadway.

Checking the alignment:

Sight along railings: Run profile levels:

This inspection is employed to check the plumbness. An out of plumb pier in either direction usually signifies foundation movement & it also indicates a superstructure displacement. This should be checked for the signs of opening or rotating. It will indicate the movement of subsurface soils which results in abnormally small or large openings, differential elevation etc. The cracks, buckling, & other deteriorations should be noted.

Check piers, pile bents, abutment faces:

Observing expansion joints:

Observe slabs, walls & members:

Back walls should be checked for cracking developed by the abutment rotation, sliding or pavement thrust. This is a sign of horizontal movement of the abutment.

Checking back walls & Beam ends:

Embankments should be checked for balance & positioning. Unbalanced embankments may variety of soil movements which may impair the structural integrity

Unbalanced post-construction embankment or fill:

cause a


This investigation has to be performed by the personnel experienced in these types of inspections. However, the bridge inspector is responsible for the bridge inspection & for the evaluation of the underwater portions of the bridge. Relatively new structures have collapsed due to the corrosion of the steel piles below the concrete protection. PSC piles will not fail below water level, while timber piles are known to be vulnerable. This type of investigations is very important in the case of constructions to be done in the sea. During inspection the following points may be checked.

Pile bents.

1.Steel piles. 2.Timber piles 3.Concrete piles. Dolphins & fenders. Pier & Abutment Conditions. Scour.

Approach pavement is to be checked for the unevenness, settlement or roughness. Existence of defects may cause vehicles coming onto the bridge to induce undesirable impact stresses in the structure. Cracking in slab indicates a void under the slab from fill settlement. The joints between approach pavement & the abutment backwall is to be examined to determine if there is adequate clearance. The condition of the shoulders, slopes, drainage & approach guard rail should also be checked.

During flood season, careful patrolling & watching is necessary that too in first flood to detect any weaken in construction & take the necessary action. The engineer should have the records of previous protective work & the behavior of the river. This will help in the solving the practical problems. A reserve quantity of stone can be used in the emergency situations. 2% of the total quantity of boulders used in apron & slope pitching may be kept as a reserve in stock for the emergency use. Any small rain cuts or displacement by waves along the guide bund or approach bank must be repaired immediately otherwise there will be chances of major disaster. Settlement in the bank or bridge or slip in the slope should be repaired immediately. Soundings should be taken near the guide bund when the river is in flood.


Note down any structural cracks more than 0.3mm in width & any signs of deterioration & distress. In a structure this will range from usual surface cracks to serious structural cracks & manifestation of distress zones.
If the observed manifestations of distress in the structure are so serious, then it will require the detailed structural investigation in order to enable to decide between repair & part or complete demolition & replacement. A detailed explanation supporting reasons & the details of the likely causes that obviously lead to such distress is given.


Bridge number Name Date of investigations Location Description Skew Spans Total length Roadway width Surfacing Sidewalks Railing Alignment Traffic lanes Design live loading Warerway Other features crossed Clearances Date built

General Original bridge reports

Plans & dimensions Condition of structures Restrictions Miscellaneous Stress analysis Recommendations Signature Channel profile Encroachments Environmental conditions Average daily traffic Revised original bridge report Supplementary bridge report Bridge number Date Bridge name & location Work done Revised dimensions Condition of structure Restrictions Revised stress analysis Recommendations Signature

A bridge serves its purpose only it is maintained properly. For this purpose, the bridges should be checked once in a month. In the inspection if small cracks or any other defects are found then, it should be rectified without negligence & if some major defects are found then necessary steps are taken to demolish the bridge & rebuilding of the bridge or replacing the bridge component. It is important to maintain the records of the bridges with various photographs of the bridges, plans, design of the bridge components detailed drawings etc & it can become useful in emergency situations.

REFERENCES: S.Ponnuswamy Bridge Engineering, Second edition, published by Tata Mc Graw Hill publishing, 1986. V.K.Raina Concrete BridgePractice, First edition, published by Tata Mc Graw Hill publishing, 1988. V.K.Raina Concrete Bridges,Indian edition, by Tata McGraw-Hill publishing, 1994.