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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HIF-19-003    Date:  November 2018
Publication Number: FHWA-HIF-19-003
Date: November 2018


Performance of Grouted Connections for Prefabricated Bridge Deck Elements

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Transportation agencies face a number of challenges when it comes to the design, construction, and maintenance of highway infrastructure networks. Thus, solutions that reduce the impact of new and replacement bridge construction on the owner, traveling public, and environment are greatly sought after. This is especially true for those solutions that also enhanced durability and resiliency of bridge structure. A recent paradigm shift in bridge construction, termed “accelerated bridge construction” or “ABC,” utilizes innovative strategies, technologies, and design concepts to reduce the impact of bridge construction. Many of these ABC projects use prefabricated bridge elements and systems (PBES) to realize of the aforementioned benefits. These modular systems are manufactured off-site with high-quality material and are rapidly assembled on-site to form structural systems. Although these systems provide numerous benefits, connecting elements together poses a challenge. The goal of the research presented in this report was to advance the body of knowledge on behavior of connections between prefabricated bridge elements and systems. The research team executed an extensive study, investigating many different variable combinations. The information and findings presented aim to enhance the understanding of these systems such that bridge owners and design consultants can better implement PBES-based solutions.

Cheryl Allen Richter, P.E., Ph.D.
Director, Office of Infrastructure
Research and Development


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.


Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No.


3 Recipient's Catalog No.


4. Title and Subtitle

Performance of Grouted Connections for Prefabricated Bridge Deck Elements

5. Report Date

November 2018

6. Performing Organization Code


7. Author(s)

Zachary B. Haber and Benjamin A. Graybeal

8. Performing Organization Report No.


9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Office of Infrastructure Research and Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)


11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Infrastructure Research and Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

January 2011 – December 2016

14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

The completion of the research discussed herein was supported by laboratory support contract DTFH61-10-D-00017 at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.

16. Abstract

Prefabricated bridge elements and systems (PBES) are integral to many accelerated bridge construction projects, and prefabricated deck panels are one of many PBES types that have gained popularity in such projects. Laboratory research and field studies have indicated the primary challenge for these systems is the design and construction of the connections, which are typically made using interlaced connector elements and field-cast grout. Poor detailing and design considerations have been shown to pose problems with deck durability, serviceability, and ultimate capacity. The objective of the research presented herein was to advance the understanding of deck-level connections between adjacent prefabricated bridge deck elements for use in accelerated bridge construction projects. Two series of experiments were conducted. The first, referred to as “Bond Characterization Testing,” utilized specimens with geometric details and loading protocols based on current ASTM standard test methods. These tests were used to study the bond behavior between precast concrete and different connection grouts. In the second set of experiments, referred to as “Deck-Level Connection Testing,” 75 large-scale deck-level connection assemblies were tested in four-point bending and subjected to three different loading protocols; namely, low-level cyclic loading meant to induce cracking, post-cracking fatigue loading, and monotonic ultimate loading. Several parameters frequently considered during the design of these connections were investigated: shear key shape, reinforcement type, connection grout material type, and precast surface preparation. Results indicate the performance of these connections is heavily influenced by the grout type, precast concrete surface preparation, and reinforcement detailing.

17. Key Words

Ultra-high performance concrete, Non-shrink grout, epoxy grout, rapid-set grout, connections, precast bridge deck, accelerated bridge construction

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions.

19. Security Classification
(of this report)


20. Security Classification
(of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price


Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized



Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101