Lateral spread is a seismic hazard associated with soil liquefaction in which permanent deformations are developed within the soil profile due to cyclic mobility. Lateral spread has historically been one of the largest causes of earthquake-related damage to infrastructure. One of the infrastructure components most at risk from lateral spread is that of deep foundations. Because performance-based engineering is increasingly becoming adopted in earthquake engineering practice, it would be beneficial for engineers and researchers to have a performance-based methodology for computing pile performance during a lateral spread event. This study utilizes the probabilistic performance-based framework developed by the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center to develop a methodology for computing probabilistic estimates of kinematic pile response. The methodology combines procedures familiar to most practicing engineers such as probabilistic seismic hazard analysis, empirical compution of lateral spread displacement, and kinematic pile response using p-y soil spring models (i.e. LPILE). The performance-based kinematic pile response model is applied to a series of lateral spread case histories from the earthquake that struck the Limon province of Costa Rica on April 22, 1991. The M7.6 earthquake killed 53 people, injured another 193 people, and disrupted an estimated 30-percent of the highway pavement and railways in the region due to fissures, scarps, and soil settlements resulting from liquefaction. Significant lateral spread was observed at bridge sites throughout the eastern part of Costa Rica near Limon, and the observed structural damage ranged from moderate to severe. This study identified five such bridges where damage due to lateral spread was observed following the earthquake. A geotechnical investigation is performed at each of these five bridges in an attempt to back-analyze the soil conditions leading to the liquefaction and lateral spread observed during the 1991 earthquake, and each of the five resulting case histories is developed and summarized. The results of this study should make a valuable contribution to the field of earthquake hazard reduction because they will introduce a procedure which will allow engineers and owners to objectively evaluate the performance of their deep foundation systems exposed to kinematic lateral spread loads corresponding to a given level of risk.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Kevin W. Franke, liquefaction, lateral spread, performance-based engineering, kinematic pile response, Costa Rica, Limon earthquake