Abstract

Crack surveys of bridge decks, performed over a 10-year period in northeast Kansas as part of three studies, provide strong guidance in identifying the parameters that control cracking in these structures. The surveys involve steel girder bridges—bridges that are generally agreed to exhibit the greatest amount of cracking in the concrete decks. The surveys include monolithic decks and decks with silica fume and conventional concrete overlays. The study demonstrates that crack density increases as a function of cement and water content, and concrete strength. In addition, crack density is higher in the end spans of decks that are integral with the abutments than decks with pin-ended supports. Most cracking occurs early in the life of a bridge deck, but continues to increase over time. This is true for bridges cast in both the 1980s and the 1990s. A key observation, however, is that bridge decks cast in the 1980s exhibit less cracking than those in the 1990s, even with the increase in crack density over time. Changes in materials, primarily cement fineness, and construction procedures over the past 20 years, are discussed in light of these observations. A major bright spot has been the positive effect of efforts to limit early evaporation, suggesting that the early initiation of curing procedures will help reduce cracking in bridge decks.

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