Load rating of bridge-size reinforced concrete arch culverts

Akram Jawdhari, Abheetha Peiris, Issam Harik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Of the 604,485 bridges in the United States, approximately 21% are culverts having a span of 6 m (20 ft) or greater. The load rating of typical bridges presents numerous challenges. Developing load ratings for non-typical structures, such as buried arch-shaped culverts is more complex because of the culverts’ unique geometric configuration and their interaction with soil media. This paper proposes an alternative analytical method for load rating in-service reinforced concrete (RC) arch culverts that overcomes the limitations of the widely used elastic frame concept while being straightforward to implement. The proposed analytical method uses two-dimensional finite element models of the arch structure and surrounding soil media. The finite element model was first validated against experimental tests on a full-scale RC arch culvert, subjected to simulated live loads. The validated FE model was used in load rating analysis of 21 RC arch culverts with large fills. It was found that for arch culverts with fills exceeding 2.43 m (8 ft.), the controlling actions are bending moments at the crown and haunch. For culverts with fills greater than 3.05 m (10 ft.), live load effects become negligible. A revised rating formula is proposed for culverts with this characteristic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStructure and Infrastructure Engineering
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
for the project was provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Arch culverts
  • bridges
  • finite element method
  • live loads
  • load rating
  • reinforced concrete

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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