BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The major earthquake that "struck" a 70-ton,
60-foot-long concrete bridge today in the University at Buffalo's
Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory will
help engineers evaluate if a fast, new construction method results
in bridges strong enough to withstand seismic activity. View the
video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoPM8G_OrEU
The test, conducted by earthquake engineers in the UB Department
of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering and UB's MCEER
(formerly the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering
Research), was the largest earthquake (simulated or otherwise) to
hit a bridge constructed using the rapid and cost-effective method
called Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC).
The project is funded by the Federal Highway Administration.
The results could usher in a new era in bridge construction for
seismic areas, such as California.
Data from the UB/MCEER tests will be used by FHWA to begin to
develop standards for getting the best performance from Accelerated
Bridge Construction in seismically active areas.
Today's two tests were conducted on the half-scale bridge, which
had been erected across UB's twin shake tables.
UB's unique Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation
Laboratory, with its twin, relocatable shake tables, is one of the
few places in the world that could perform this kind of test. It
demonstrates the unique ability of UB and MCEER to develop and
evaluate technological innovations that are increasingly critical
in addressing the nation's aging infrastructure, especially
advances that can save time and money.
Hundreds of bridges have been built around the nation using this
speedy new construction method, in which the components are
prefabricated in a shop, then transported to the site, where they
It's so fast that it can take just days, not months, to build a
bridge, saving states and municipalities precious public
But how will such bridges perform in California or other
seismically active regions?
"The concern is that these bridges are basically concrete boxes
held together by steel tendons (cables), which potentially could
snap during an earthquake," says Andre Filiatrault, PhD, professor
of civil, structural and environmental engineering and director of
MCEER. He and Amjad Aref, PhD, also a civil engineering professor
at UB, are principal investigators. Myrto Anagnostopoulou, UB
structural and test engineer and Petros Sideris, a UB doctoral
student in civil, structural and environmental engineering, also
are members of the project team.
They note that the bridge piers and deck consist of segments
connected by tendons or joints, and that if they were to break
apart, there would be nothing to hold the bridge components
However, these same tendons may account for the excellent
performance the UB researchers have been seeing in the lab.
"You could think of the deck and piers as held together by
elastic bands," says Filiatrault. "The elements deform under
seismic loading, and then recenter themselves after the earthquake
For the past two weeks, Aref, Filiatrault and their colleagues
have been subjecting the bridge to increasingly powerful
Today, it underwent its most powerful seismic tests.
"It can take six months or more to construct a bridge in the
traditional way," says Aref. "If you could reduce that to just a
few days, states and cities could save millions in labor
At the same time, he says, it will give communities that have
lost use of their bridges after an extreme event a new tool in
rebuilding quickly and economically.
"After a disaster, quick reconstruction is even more critical,"
Since 1992, UB and MCEER have attracted more than $30 million in
Federal Highway Administration contracts to develop new knowledge,
tools and technologies to improve the disaster resilience of our
nation's highway system.
Founded in 1986, MCEER, the Multidisciplinary Center for
Earthquake Engineering Research, headquartered at the University at
Buffalo, is a national center of excellence in advanced technology
applications dedicated to reducing losses from earthquake and other
hazards nationwide. One of three such centers in the nation
established by the National Science Foundation, MCEER has been
funded principally over the past two decades, with more than $67
million from NSF; more than $47 million from the State of New York
and more than $34 million from the Federal Highway Administration.
Additional support comes from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, other state governments, academic institutions, foreign
governments and private industry.