The effects of seismic forces and thermal expansion on bridge performance necessitate an accurate understanding of the relationship between passive force and backwall deflection. In past case studies, skewed bridges exhibited significantly more damage than non-skewed bridges. These findings prompted studies involving numerical modeling, lab-scale tests, and large-scale tests that each showed a dramatic reduction in passive force with increased skew. Using these results, a correlation was developed between peak passive force and backwall skew angle. The majority of these tests had length to height ratios of 2.0; however, for several abutments in the field, the length to height ratio might be considerably higher than 2.0. This change in geometry could potentially affect the validity of the previously found passive force reduction correlation. To explore this issue, laterally loaded, large-scale pile cap tests were performed with densely compacted sand at a length of 11 ft (3.35 m) and a height of 3 ft (0.91 m), resulting in a length to height ratio of 3.7. The backwall interface was adjusted to fit three various skew angles including: 0°, 15° and 30°. The behavior of both the pile cap and adjacent soil backfill were monitored under these conditions. The peak passive force for the 15° and 30° tests were found to be 71% and 45%, respectively, of the peak passive force for the 0° skew test. These findings are relatively consistent with previously performed tests. Passive forces peaked at deflections between 2% and 5% of the backwall height, decreasing with skew angle. All skews exhibited a log spiral failure plane that transitioned into a linear plane. These results also agreed with previously reported values for large-scale passive force-deflection tests. Rotation of the pile cap was detected in the direction opposite to the skew. Higher pressures were found to be on both corners of the pile cap than in the middle portion, as is suggested by the elastic theory.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





passive force, bridge abutment, large-scale, skew, pile cap, lateral resistance, backwall pressure, inclinometer, shape array