Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Zhongguo J. Ma

Committee Members

Edwin G. Burdette, Qiuhong Zhao


The interstate highway system is vitally dependent upon current and future bridges. These bridges must be designed economically to continue the serviceability with limited maintenance. For precast bridge construction a portion of the design must consider the bridge connections. Some current connections have proved insufficient in serviceability as there is uncontrolled cracking. In other connections there are uncertainties in the calculations (or lack of calculations) which require design guidelines.

This thesis presents design recommendations for precast decking u-bar reinforcement in tension which results from negative moment over a pier. Testing results from the University of Tennessee were analyzed to determine the design recommendations. The calculated capacity of the specimens was determined first by strut and tie modeling by AASHTO and ACI, but was shown to be insufficient.

Proposed changes to the current calculation of the strut width as specified in AASHTO and ACI STM methods were discussed in order to match the test results. However, strut and tie modeling demonstrated that the design for the lacer bar was inadequate. Since the strut and tie modeling method resulted in an inaccurate lacer bar size, another method was developed.

A triangular shape develops from the flow of forces in the connection joint zone; as a result, a free body diagram (FBD) was developed from the concrete triangular shape. This diagram showed how the forces flow in the in-situ joint as well as how they are resisted. A formula was developed from the FBD to determine the capacity of the joint which accurately reflected the capacities from tests.

A FBD was also made of the lacer bar utilizing the forces and geometry calculated from the capacity calculations. A computer analysis program was used to determine the forces in the lacer bar. The lacer bar could then be designed since the required forces to resist (moment and shear) were known.

A comparison of the strut and tie model to the triangular method led to the conclusion that both can determine the longitudinal reinforcement spacing, joint overlap length, and concrete strength, but only the triangular method can determine a more sufficient lacer bar size.

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