Nonlinear finite-element analysis of critical gusset plates in the I-35W bridge in Minnesota

Minmao Liao, Taichiro Okazaki, Roberto Ballarini, Arturo E. Schultz, Theodore V. Galambos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Reported evidence suggests that failure of gusset plates initiated the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The particular gusset plates were at a panel point designated as U10. Therefore, an analytical investigation was conducted on the condition of the U10 gusset plates at the time of bridge collapse. The forces delivered to panel point U10 were reproduced using available information of the bridge. These forces were introduced to detailed nonlinear three-dimensional finite-element models to calculate stress and strain states of the gusset plates. The results indicate that substantial portions of the U10 gusset plates were yielded at the time of collapse, confirming earlier findings from federal and state investigations. Weight increase due to past deck reconstruction and construction material and equipment staged on the day of collapse, along with insufficient thickness of the gusset plate, were identified as the main contributing factors to the substantial yielding. The results also suggest that the interaction of compression and shear played an important role in the gusset plate failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Structural Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Bridge failure
  • Bridge failures
  • Connections
  • Finite element method
  • Finite-element method
  • Minnesota
  • Nonlinear analysis


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