External strengthening of reinforced concrete pier caps
Bechtel, Andrew Joseph
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The shear capacity of reinforced concrete pier caps in existing bridge support systems can be a factor which limits the capacity of an existing bridge. In their usual configuration, pier caps behave as deep beams and have the ability to carry load through tied arch action after the formation of diagonal cracks. Externally bonded fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) reinforcement has been shown to increase the shear capacity of reinforced concrete members which carry load through beam action. However, there is an insufficient amount of research to make it a viable strengthening system for beams which carry load through arch action, such as pier caps. Accordingly, this research was aimed at investigating the behavior of reinforced concrete pier caps through a coordinated experimental and analytical program and to recommend an external strengthening method for pier caps with perceived deficiencies in shear strength. The experimental study was performed on laboratory specimens based on an existing bridge in Georgia. A number of factors were examined, including size, percentage longitudinal reinforcement and crack control reinforcement. The results showed that increasing the longitudinal tension reinforcement increased the beam capacity by changing the shape of the tied arch. In contrast, the presence of crack control reinforcement did not change the point at which diagonal cracking occurred, but it did increase the ultimate capacity by reinforcing the concrete against splitting. The results of the experimental study were used in conjunction with a larger database to examine different analytical methods for estimating the ultimate capacity of deep beams, and a new method was developed for the design of external strengthening. Two specimens were tested with externally bonded FRP reinforcement applied longitudinally to increase the strength of the tension tie. The test results correlated well with the proposed method of analysis and showed that increasing the strength of the longitudinal tension tie is an effective way to increase the strength of a reinforced concrete deep beam.