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NSEL Report 032PDF


Title:Current Research Topics: Railroad Bridges and Structural Engineering
Author(s):Moreu, Fernando; LaFave, James M.
Subject(s):Railroad Bridges
Bridge Design and Management
Bridge Inspection and Maintenance
Railroad Engineer Survey
Structural Research Prioritization
Abstract:Railroad infrastructure must be maintained safely and reliably for both owners and users. Railroad bridge expenditures in particular represent about 10% of the annual capital investment for Class I railroads in the United States (U.S.). Due to the lack of flexibility of railroad networks, railroads cannot afford not to repair or replace bridges that should be either partially upgraded or completely renovated. If they fail to do so, maintenance expenses and/or structural failure could cause railroads to lose money that would have been saved if part of it had been properly budgeted and used in the first place. Beyond these financial concerns associated with railroad bridge management, railroads (which are private commercial enterprises in the U.S.) are widely recognized for placing a high priority on safety. Academia, government, and railroad bridge engineering agencies have, over the years, all formally studied a variety of railroad bridge research topics. In the past, workshops have assisted railroad institutions toward directing research efforts based on the current needs of the railroad bridge structural engineering community. This report is the result of a new survey-based study entitled “Current Research Topics: Railroad Bridges and Structural Engineering.” The lead author of this report planned and conducted the survey during the 2009-2010 academic years, and comprised the results and findings during 2011. Research topics were selected and prioritized following the results of a detailed telephone survey conducted with sixteen experts on railroad bridges and structural engineering in North America. This report includes a literature review that was developed to follow up on topics discussed during the course of the survey interviews. In addition, other focused conversations with key professionals in both the railroad bridges and structural engineering communities (including experts on associated technologies from academia and industry) have been incorporated into this report. The increased nationwide attention toward high-speed railroads has also been addressed. Finally, new federal regulations affecting railroad bridge management in the U.S. have been examined and included. This survey-based study identifies the management of railroad bridges as a primary concern for railroad bridge structural engineers today. Field assessment, especially as it relates to bridge capacity, is of particular interest. The nearterm implementation of Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) into railroad bridge management has been identified as a potential tool for railroad bridge management. Finally, current and future research in this and other related areas is briefly discussed and proposed. In summary, this report identifies current structural engineering research topics of interest for railroad bridges in North America. In particular, the railroad bridge structural engineering community finds the assessment of bridge performance under traffic loading by using emerging SHM techniques to be a top research interest. As a consequence, SHM implementation for railroad bridges management should be given high priority for research and development.
Issue Date:2012-10
Publisher:Newmark Structural Engineering Laboratory. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Series/Report:Newmark Structural Engineering Laboratory Report Series 032
Genre:Technical Report
Sponsor:Association of American Railroads (AAR) Technology Scanning Program
Max Zar Scholarship
SEI ASCE O. H. Amman Research Fellowship
Talentia Fellowship (Junta de Andalucia, Spain)
Rights Information:Copyright held by the authors. All rights reserved.
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-10-16

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