Hydrodynamic and debris-damming failure of bridge decks and piers in steady flow

Kevin Oudenbroek, Nader Naderi, Jeremy D. Bricker*, Yuguang Yang, Cor van der Veen, Wim Uijttewaal, Shuji Moriguchi, Sebastiaan N. Jonkman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


In countries with steep rivers, such as Japan and the United States, bridges fail on an annual basis. Bridges on spread footings are especially susceptible to failure by hydrodynamic loading, often exacerbated by debris damming. Here, such failures are investigated via small scale model laboratory experiments and full scale numerical simulations. In the laboratory, lift and drag forces and overturning moment on bridge decks, piers, and deck-pier systems, are measured and compared with threshold of failure criteria used in design guidelines. Effects of debris on lift, drag, and moment, as well as three-dimensional effects, are quantified. Via numerical simulations, flow patterns and free surface behaviour responsible for these forces are investigated, and described in a framework as a function of the water depth, flow speed, deck clearance, and girder height. Results show that current guidelines are non-conservative in some cases. Importantly, failure of both decks and piers can be prevented by strengthening pier-deck connections, or by streamlining decks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number409
Number of pages26
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2018


  • Bridge
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Drag
  • Flood
  • Force
  • Lift
  • Load cell


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