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Earthquake damage potential and critical scour depth of bridges exposed to flood and seismic hazards under lateral seismic loads


Many bridges located in seismic hazard regions suffer from serious foundation exposure caused by riverbed scour. Loss of surrounding soil significantly reduces the lateral strength of pile foundations. When the scour depth exceeds a critical level, the strength of the foundation is insufficient to withstand the imposed seismic demand, which induces the potential for unacceptable damage to the piles during an earthquake. This paper presents an analytical approach to assess the earthquake damage potential of bridges with foundation exposure and identify the critical scour depth that causes the seismic performance of a bridge to differ from the original design. The approach employs the well-accepted response spectrum analysis method to determine the maximum seismic response of a bridge. The damage potential of a bridge is assessed by comparing the imposed seismic demand with the strengths of the column and the foundation. The versatility of the analytical approach is illustrated with a numerical example and verified by the nonlinear finite element analysis. The analytical approach is also demonstrated to successfully determine the critical scour depth. Results highlight that relatively shallow scour depths can cause foundation damage during an earthquake, even for bridges designed to provide satisfactory seismic performance.