Girder differential deflection and distortion-induced fatigue in skewed steel bridges

Evan M. Berglund, Arturo E. Schultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The prevalence of fatigue cracking in steel bridge girders due to out-of-plane web distortion motivates development of procedures to evaluate the effects of distortional fatigue. In a previous study sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) the frequency and magnitude of distortional stresses on a typical skewed, steel bridge with staggered, bent-plate diaphragms were assessed. The results revealed a diaphragm deformation mechanism that causes distortional fatigue in the girder web gap, leading to simple, accurate estimates of fatigue stress if bridge properties and differential vertical deflection between girders are known. In the present study, linear finite element models are used to represent composite steel bridges and identify bridge parameters that influence relative deflection of adjacent girders. Parameters found to have a significant effect on differential deflection include girder spacing, angle of skew, span length, and deck thickness. These results are incorporated in a simple procedure that is intended for use in management schemes for skewed, steel-girder bridges, with staggered, bent-plate diaphragms, susceptible to web gap distortional fatigue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-177
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bridge Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006


  • Bridges
  • Cracking
  • Deflection
  • Fatigue
  • Girders
  • Skewed structures
  • Steel


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