Pile foundations for bridges must often resist lateral loads produced by earthquakes and thermal expansion and contraction of the superstructure. Right-of-way constraints near bridge abutments are leading to an increased use of mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls below the abutment. Previous research has shown that lateral pile resistance can be greatly reduced when piles are placed close to MSE walls but design codes do not address this issue. A full-scale MSE wall was constructed and 24 lateral load tests were conducted on pipe, square and H piles spaced at distances of about 2 to 5 pile diameters from the back face of the wall. The MSE wall was constructed using welded-wire grid and ribbed strip inextensible reinforcements. This paper focuses on four lateral load tests conducted on steel pipe piles located behind a 20-ft section of MSE wall reinforced with welded-wire grids. Results showed that measured lateral resistance decreases significantly when pipe piles are located closer than about 4 pile diameters from the wall. LPILE software was used to back-calculate P-multipliers that account for the reduced lateral resistance of the pile as a function of normalized spacing from the wall. P-multipliers for this study were 0.95, 0.68, and 0.3 for piles spaced 4.3, 3.4 and 1.8 pile diameters from the wall, respectively. Based on results from this study and previous data, lateral pile resistance is relatively unaffected (p-multiplier = 1.0) for piles spaced more than approximately 3.9 pile diameters (3.9D) from the MSE wall. For piles spaced closer than 3.9D, the p-multiplier decreased linearly as distance to the wall decreased. P-multipliers were not affected by differences in reinforcement length to height (L/H) ratio or reinforcing type. Lateral pile loads induce tensile forces in the soil reinforcement such that, as pile load increases the maximum induced tensile force increases. Results also indicate that maximum tensile forces typically occurred in the soil reinforcement near the pile location. Past research results were combined with data from this study and a statistical regression analysis was performed using all data associated with welded-wire grid reinforcements. A regression equations was developed to predict the peak induced tensile force in welded-wire grids based on independent variables including lateral pile load, normalized pile distance (S/D), transverse distance (T/D), L/H ratio, and vertical stress. The equation has an R2 value of 0.79, meaning it accounts for approximately 79% of variation for all welded-wire grid reinforcements tested to date.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





Kyle Rollins, lateral load, pile, p-multiplier, welded-wire grids, MSE wall