Numerical Analysis of Passive Force on Skewed BridgeAbutments with Reinforced Concrete WingwallsScott Karl SnowDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, BYU Master of Science Historically bridges with skewed abutments have proven more likely to fail during earthquake loadings (Toro et al, 2013) when compared to non-skewed bridges (Apirakvorapinit et al. 2012; Elnashai et al. 2010). Previous studies including small-scale laboratory tests by Jessee (2012), large-scale field tests by Smith (2014), and numerical modeling by Shamsabadi et al. (2006) have shown that 45° skewed bridge abutments experience a reduction in peak passive force by about 65%. With numerous skewed bridges in the United States, this study has great importance to the nation's infrastructure.The finite element models produced in this study model the large-scale field-testing performed by Smith (2014), which was performed to study the significant reduction in peak passive resistance for abutments with longitudinal reinforced concrete wingwalls. The finite element models largely confirm the findings of Smith (2014). Two models were created and designed to match the large-scale field tests and were used to calibrate the soil parameters for this study. Two additional models were then created by increasing the abutment widths from 11 feet to 38 feet to simulate a two-lane bridge. The 45° skewed 11-foot abutment experienced a 38% reduction in peak passive resistance compared to the non-skewed abutment. In contrast, the 45° skewed 38-foot abutment experienced a 65% reduction in peak passive resistance compared to the non-skewed abutment. When the wingwalls are extended 10 feet into the backfill the reduction decreased to 59% due to the change in effective skew angle.The finite element models generally confirmed the findings of Smith (2014). The results of the 11- and 38-foot abutment finite element models confirmed that the wingwall on the obtuse side of the 45° skewed abutments experienced approximately 4 to 5 times the amount of horizontal soil pressure and 5 times the amount of bending moment compared to the non-skewed abutment. Increases in the pressures and bending moments are likely caused by soil confined between the obtuse side of the abutment and the wingwall.A comparison of the 11- and 38-foot 45° skewed abutment models showed a decrease in the influence of the wingwalls as the abutment widened. The wingwall on the acute side of the 38-foot abutment developed approximately 50% of the horizontal soil pressure compared to the 11-foot abutment. The heave distribution of the 11-foot abutment showed approximately 1- to 2-inches of vertical displacement over a majority of the abutment backwall versus more than half of the 38-foot abutment producing ½ an inch or less.



College and Department

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

Date Submitted


Document Type





abutments, backfill, bending moment, deflection, displacement, earthquake, finite element, heave, passive force, pressure, reduction, Rollins, Shamsabadi, skew