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Earthquake hazard analysis, Soil liquefaction, Bridges -- Design and construction, Piling (Civil engineering)


Damage in pile supported structures due to liquefaction and liquefaction induced deformation were reported in past earthquakes around the world (e.g., Ansal et al. 1999; Seed et al. 1990; EERI 2010, EERI 2011; GEER 2010a, GEER 2010b, GEER 2011). For example, a reconnaissance report from a recent subduction zone event, the 2010 Chile earthquake (Mw=8.8), showed the pervasive nature of liquefaction and liquefaction-induced lateral spreading damage to bridge foundations (GEER 2010a, Yen et al. 2011). In terms of seismic hazard, the Pacific Northwest shares similar conditions from a Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) earthquake source with the expected earthquake magnitude of 9.0 (Mw) and return period of 300 years (Atwater et al. 1995, Atwater and Hemphill-Halley 1997). The risk and damage from a CSZ earthquake event is widely recognized by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as presented in a report by ODOT (2009). A large number of bridges were found to be vulnerable to a CSZ event, and repair and replacement costs of Oregon bridges have been estimated at more than 1 billion USD (ODOT 2009). Moreover, thousands of bridges require some kind of modification and/or seismic retrofitting to the foundation in order to improve seismic performance under liquefaction induced lateral spreading.

To evaluate the seismic performance of bridge foundations and liquefaction mitigation alternatives, ODOT/OTREC funded collaborative research between Oregon State University (OSU), University of California at Davis (UCD), University of California at San Diego (UCSD), Hayward Baker Inc., and Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER). The main objectives of the research were to develop design charts for different liquefaction mitigation alternatives and to develop methodologies for assessing the performance of bridge pile foundations in laterally spreading ground.

The cooperative research focuses on two aspects of liquefaction and liquefaction induced lateral spreading: (1) ground improvement methods, particularly using stone columns and deep soil mixing (DSM) grids, and (2) assess the seismic performance of bridge foundations (e.g., drilled shaft, pile groups) and seismic retrofitting alternatives for the bridge foundation. Stone columns for liquefaction mitigation and pile groups foundation assessment were investigated by the OSU team, while DSM and large diameter piles/shafts alternatives were investigated by the UCD team. Research teams used OpenSees (, an open source computational platform for three dimensional (3D) finite element (FE) modeling and analysis. OpenSeesPL, a graphical user interface developed by the UCSD team, was used to investigate liquefaction mitigation alternatives (i.e., stone columns and DSM grids) and the performance of pile foundations in liquefaction induced laterally spreading ground.


This is a final report, SRS 500-300 OTREC-RR-13-05, from the NITC program of TREC at Portland State University, and can be found online at:



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