Analytical and experimental assessment of steel truss bridge gusset plate connections
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The I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, MN had a catastrophic failure in the main span of the deck truss in 2007. This collapse has brought significant attention on the gusset plate connections in steel truss bridges throughout the U.S. Steel truss bridge gusset plate design has not received much focus in the past 40 years, and there is a lack of consensus within the design profession on the procedures to evaluate, design, and rate these critical elements. In the short term, based on the best available information on the gusset plate design, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued preliminary guidance. Although some experimental research has been conducted on the ultimate strength of gusset plates, much of this work has been directed toward the performance of tension members and their connections. There has been limited experimental work on the compression capacity and stability of gusset plates, but most of this work is relevant primarily to bracing connections common in building structures. This research focuses on comprehensive experimental and analytical studies on steel truss bridge gusset plate behavior. The studies include comparisons of advanced analytical models with the responses from large-scale experimental tests using discrete and innovative full-field measurements. The calibrated finite element analysis models are then utilized to study a variety of gusset plate configurations. Improved mechanistic idealizations that better capture the observed behavior in the experiments and analytical studies are proposed as the result of this work. The design checks recommended in this thesis present a comprehensive methodology for determining the ultimate gusset plate resistance. This research provides a large database of original results that will be useful for future similar studies. In addition, this research provides modeling procedures that permit the study of steel truss bridge connections and their adjacent framing members using truss bridge sub-assemblies. Based on the comprehensive analytical studies, simple and accurate design calculation procedures to assess the nominal ultimate strength of steel truss gusset plate connections are recommended for steel truss bridge gusset plate connections.