Analytical fragility curves for highway bridges in moderate seismic zones
Historical seismic events such as the San Fernando earthquake of 1971 and the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 did much to highlight the vulnerabilities in many existing highway bridges. However, it was not until 1990 that this awareness extended to the moderate seismic regions such as the Central and Southeastern United States (CSUS). This relatively long neglect of seismic issues pertaining to bridges in these moderate seismic zones has resulted in a portfolio of existing bridges with seismic deficiencies which must be assessed and addressed.
An emerging decision tool, whose use is becoming ever increasingly popular in the assessment of this seismic risk, is that of seismic fragility curves. Fragility curves are conditional probability statements which give the probability of a bridge reaching or exceeding a particular damage level for an earthquake of a given intensity level. As much research has been devoted to the implementation of fragility curves in risk assessment packages, a great need has arisen for bridge fragility curves which are reliable, particularly for those in moderate seismic zones. The purpose of this study is to use analytical methods to generate fragility curves for nine bridge classes which are most common to the CSUS. This is accomplished by first considering the existing bridge inventory and assessing typical characteristics and details from which detailed 3-D analytical models are created. The bridges are subjected to a suite of synthetic ground motions which were developed explicitly for the region. Probabilistic seismic demand models (PSDM) are then generated using these analyses. From these PSD models, fragility curves are generated by considering specific levels of damage which may be of interest. The fragility curves show that the most vulnerable of all the bridge nine bridge classes considered are those utilizing steel girders. Concrete girder bridges appear to be the next most vulnerable followed by single span bridges of all types. Various sources of uncertainty are considered and tracked throughout this study, which allows for their direct implementation into existing seismic risk assessment packages.