Flexural resistance of longitudinally stiffened plate girders
Palamadai Subramanian, Lakshmi Priya
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AASHTO LRFD requires the use of longitudinal stiffeners in plate girder webs when the web slenderness D/tw is greater than 150. This practice is intended to limit the lateral flexing of the web plate during construction and at service conditions. AASHTO accounts for an increase in the web bend buckling resistance due to the presence of a longitudinal stiffener. However, when the theoretical bend buckling capacity of the stiffened web is exceeded under strength load conditions, the Specifications do not consider any contribution from the longitudinal stiffener to the girder resistance. That is, the AASHTO LRFD web bend buckling strength reduction factor Rb applied in these cases is based on an idealization of the web neglecting the longitudinal stiffener. This deficiency can have significant impact on girder resistance in regions of negative flexure. This research is aimed at evaluating the improvements that may be achieved by fully considering the contribution of web longitudinal stiffeners to the girder flexural resistance. Based on refined FE test simulations, this research establishes that minimum size longitudinal stiffeners, per current AASHTO LRFD requirements, contribute significantly to the post buckling flexural resistance of plate girders, and can bring as much as a 60% increase in the flexural strength of the girder. A simple cross-section Rb model is proposed that can be used to calculate the girder flexural resistance at the yield limit state. This model is developed based on test simulations of straight homogenous girders subjected to pure bending, and is tested extensively and validated for hybrid girders and other limit states. It is found that there is a substantial deviation between the AISC/AASHTO LTB resistance equations and common FE test simulations. Research is conducted to determine the appropriate parameters to use in FE test simulations. Recommended parameters are identified that provide a best fit to the mean of experimental data. Based on FE simulations on unstiffened girders using these recommended parameters, a modified LTB resistance equation is proposed. This equation, used in conjunction with the proposed Rb model also provides an improved handling of combined web buckling and LTB of longitudinally stiffened plate girders. It is observed that the noncompact web slenderness limit in the Specifications, which is an approximation based on nearly rigid edge conditions for the buckling of the web plate in flexure is optimistic for certain cross-sections with narrow flanges. This research establishes that the degree of restraint at the edges of the web depend largely on the relative areas of the adjoining flanges and the area of the web. An improved equation for the noncompact web slenderness limit is proposed which leads to a better understanding and representation of the behavior of these types of members.