Document Type


Publication Date



Bridges -- Design and construction -- Environmental aspects, Bridge failures, Engineering -- Experiments, Hurricanes -- Environmental aspects


During Hurricanes Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005, at least 11 highway and railroad bridges along the U.S. Gulf Coast were damaged by wave forces. The spans of these bridges typically rested on bent column supports, and were attached to the supports by a variety of connection methods. Failure of these connections caused bridge spans to be washed away when the water rose high enough to lift them off. To build bridges that can withstand such forces, engineers must be able to estimate the effects the forces will have.

Investigator Daniel Cox of Oregon State University has conducted wave loading research on highway bridge superstructures in the past (see OTREC projects 30 and 161). In this project, he turned his attention to the supporting substructures of bridges, examining the effects of wave forces on a bent column assembly substructure. The focus of this project was to determine the strongest types of connections that would withstand hydrodynamic force.

Cox and co-investigator Tim Maddux, also of OSU, worked with a team of graduate students to conduct large-scale experiments in OSU’s Structural Engineering Research Laboratory. They used full-size prototypes of a prestressed concrete cylinder pile (PCCP) supported bent-column assembly, testing the connections using different loading cycles to determine the causes and modes of their failure.


This is a summary of TREC research project 2009-252, which can be found online at:

The final research report associated with this brief can be found at:

Persistent Identifier