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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / September 2004

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-04-029
Date: September 2004

Advancing Seismic Engineering the Virtual Way

Keeping the Nation's bridges durable and safe is the goal of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Seismic "Virtual" Team (SVT). Composed of the country's top seismic engineering experts, the team provides guidance and recommendations to FHWA, State highway agencies, and others on designing and constructing bridges to withstand earthquake-induced forces, displacements, and ground liquefaction. The team also investigates new technologies for building seismically safe bridges and retrofitting existing bridges that were not designed to resist earthquakes.

The SVT includes representatives from FHWA, State highway agencies, academia, and the private sector. Members' expertise includes teaching, code and specification development, seismology, geotechnical earthquake engineering, dynamic analysis, research, bridge design, and construction.

The team is providing information on best practices across five focus areas: seismic hazards and ground motion, design issues, geotechnical issues, retrofit issues, and research and analysis. Projects to date have included studying ground motion characteristics, analyzing bridge designs, looking at improved ways to design and detail bridge foundations, and examining how to update older bridge structures.

"One of the team's functions is to ensure that the needs and viewpoints of the State departments of transportation are addressed and met, as well as to create a strong partnership to advance seismic engineering into conventional practice," says SVT cochair Benjamin Tang of FHWA. The team includes members from the California Department of Transportation and the South Carolina Department of Transportation, both of which have fully developed seismic bridge design and retrofit programs. These team members aid in directing research and studies toward projects that benefit the States.

The team has created a Web site (www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/seismic/) that contains a range of technical information and research material, including an overview of the process for the seismic design of bridges. The site also features links to earthquake engineering research centers across the country, including the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, Mid-America Earthquake Center, Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research, and the University of Nevada-Reno's Bridge Research and Information Center.

Team members meet 1-2 times a year, with follow-up conference calls each quarter. One benefit of the team structure is that younger members have the opportunity to learn from more experienced ones. "Providing mentoring to and developing leadership skills in the team's younger members is one of the program's key goals," says W. Phillip Yen of FHWA and cochair of the SVT.

Team members recently served as members of the steering and technical committees for the Fourth National Seismic Conference and Workshop on Bridges and Highways, held in February 2004 in Memphis, Tennessee (www.conferences.uiuc.edu/seismic). Future team goals include publishing manuals on retrofit designs and geotechnical technologies, as well as performing post-earthquake damage evaluations and safety analyses as needed across the country.

For more information on seismic engineering or the assistance that the SVT can provide, contact W. Phillip Yen at 202-493-3056 (email: wen-huei.yen@fhwa.dot.gov), Benjamin Tang at 202-366-4592 (email: benjamin.tang@fhwa.dot.gov), or Glenn Smith at FHWA, 202-366-8795 (email: glenn.smith@fhwa.dot.gov).

FHWA's Office of Bridge Technology has created virtual teams to provide technical assistance and act as a focal point for current and forthcoming highway bridge and structure technology initiatives, information, and technical materials. The teams extend FHWA's in-house expertise with a wealth of science and engineering knowledge and experience from State highway agencies, industry, academia, and others.

Additional structural virtual teams that have been established include teams on high-performance steel, high-performance concrete (see September 2003 Focus), road tunnels (see March 2004 Focus), fiber-reinforced polymer composite structures, and segmental concrete bridge technology (see December 2003 Focus). To learn more, visit the following Web sites. Also in the works are teams for cable supported bridges (such as suspension and cable-stayed bridges) and bridge performance and health monitoring.

Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Composites-www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/frp/index.cfm

High-Performance Steel-www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/hps.htm

High-Performance Concrete-knowledge.fhwa.dot.gov/cops/hpcx.nsf/home

Segmental Concrete Bridge Technology-www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/segmental/

Road Tunnels-www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/tunnel/index.htm

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Updated: 01/14/2016
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