Skewed bridges have exhibited poorer performance during lateral earthquake loading when compared to non-skewed bridges (Apirakvorapinit et al. 2012; Elnashai et al. 2010). Results from small-scale laboratory tests by Rollins and Jessee (2012) and numerical modeling by Shamsabadi et al. (2006) suggest that skewed bridge abutments may provide only 35% of the non-skewed peak passive resistance when a bridge is skewed 45°. This reduction in peak passive force is of particular importance as 40% of the 600,000 bridges in the United States are skewed (Nichols 2012). Passive force-deflection results based on large-scale testing for this study largely confirm the significant reduction in peak passive resistance for abutments with longitudinal reinforced concrete wingwalls. Large-scale lateral load tests were performed on a non-skewed and 45° skewed abutment with densely compacted sand backfill. The 45° skewed abutment experienced a 54% reduction in peak passive resistance compared to the non-skewed abutment. The peak passive force for the 45° skewed abutment was estimated to occur at 5.0% of the backwall height compared to 2.2% of the backwall height for the non-skewed abutment. The 45° skewed abutment displayed evidence of rotation, primarily pushing the obtuse side of the abutment into the backfill, significantly more than the non-skewed abutment as it was loaded into the backfill. The structural and geotechnical response of the wingwalls was also monitored during large-scale testing. The wingwall on the obtuse side of the 45° skewed abutment experienced nearly 6 times the amount of horizontal soil pressure and 7 times the amount of bending moment compared to the non-skewed abutment. Pressure and bending moment distributions are provided along the height of the wingwall and indicate that the maximum moment occurs approximately 20 in (50.8 cm) below the top of the wingwall. A comparison of passive force per unit width suggests that MSE wall abutments provide 60% more passive resistance per unit width compared to reinforced concrete wingwall and unconfined abutment geometries at zero skew. These findings suggest that changes should be made to current codes and practices to properly account for skew angle in bridge design.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





passive force, bridge abutment, backfill, large-scale, skew, pile cap, lateral resistance, reinforced concrete wingwalls, bending moment, pressure, PYCAP, earthquake, seismic