A Novel Abutment Construction Technique for Rapid Bridge Construction

Quarterly Reports Other Documents Final Report
December 2009
June 2010
September 2010
December 2010
March 2011
June 2011
September 2011
Research Brief Final Report

Primary Investigator

Sam Helwany
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
CE&M, 3200 N. Cramer Street,
Milwaukee, WI 53211


One of the major obstacles facing rapid bridge construction for “typical” span type bridges used in railroad and highway situations is the time required to construct bridge abutments and foundations (shallow or deep). This can be remedied by using the “Controlled low strength materials (CLSM) integrated bridge system” comprising prefabricated bridge components along with CLSM bridge abutments. The CLSM bridge abutment comprises full-height precast concrete panels that are attached to a CLSM backfill via epoxy-coated steel anchors. The CLSM bridge abutment provides a load-bearing mechanism for the bridge sill, thus eliminating the need for piling. The CLSM abutment itself does not require the use of a deep foundation, even if the underlying soil is weak. CLSM bridge abutments can be constructed in a very short time because they do not require heavy machinery for excavation and compaction, and, most importantly, they do not require the use of piles and piling equipment. It is anticipated that with the CLSM integrated bridge system a complete bridge can be constructed in less than a week compared with a typical construction time of several months for a conventional bridge of the same size.


The application of the CLSM integrated bridge system in typical span type bridges used in railroad and highway situations will be examined. The study will be performed in two phases. Phase I is the subject of this proposal, whereas Phase II is the subject of another proposal that will be submitted to CFIRE at the conclusion of Phase I. In phase I, an instrumented, large-scale laboratory test will be performed on a CLSM bridge abutment to investigate its performance due to the application of a monotonically increasing sill (foundation) pressure. The size of the proposed CLSM abutment test is approximately 9 ft× 9 ft× 9 ft. In Phase II, a “demonstration” of the proposed method via a full-scale field construction and evaluation will be carried out, in collaboration with WisDOT and /or FHWA, to show the effectiveness of the proposed method in terms of construction time (rapidity), and short- and long-term performance of the CLSM bridge abutments and the superstructure.


(Phase I) Task 1: Review available state-of-the-art literature of various methods of rapid bridge construction/replacement; Task 2: Form a research advisory panel; Task 3: Perform a large-scale laboratory test on a CLSM abutment; Task 4: Submit a final report with the findings of Phase I;

(Phase II) Task 5: Working with the WisDOT officials, select a site for the proposed field construction and monitoring; Task 6: Perform a full-scale field construction of a 20-ft high CLSM integrated bridge system; and Task 7: Submit a final report detailing procedures and findings of the proposed study (both Phase I & II).

Project Information

  • Duration: 24 months
  • Dates: August 1, 2009 – July 31, 2011
  • Budget: $159,810
  • Student Involvement: One graduate student and two undergraduates
  • Modal Orientation: Highway
  • Project ID: CFIRE 03-12
Print Friendly