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Structural design of asphalt pavement on

concrete bridges
Mara Castro

Abstract: Traditional methods for the structural design of pavement cannot be applied to the design of pavement on
bridge decks. In this paper, a new method for the structural design of asphalt pavement on concrete bridge decks is
presented. The method can be applied to pavement on girder, slab, and box-girder bridges and can be used whatever
the considered degree of bonding between pavement and deck. The method consists of modelling the deck as a two-
layer system and then calculating stresses and strains in the pavementdeck system by means of a multilayer system.
The proposed methodology has been applied to study the behaviour of asphalt concretes, porous asphalts, and stone
matrix asphalts on girder, slab, and box-girder bridges. There is a conclusion of this application that stands out for its
practical character. The stone matrix asphalts have the best performance if fatigue is the main concern.
Key words: bridge decks, asphalt pavement, design.
Rsum : Les mthodes traditionnelles de dimensionnement de revtements ne peuvent tre appliques la conception
des revtements bitumineux des tabliers de pont. Cet article prsente une nouvelle mthode de dimensionnement de re-
vtements bitumineux des tabliers de pont en bton. Cette mthode peut sappliquer aux revtements des ponts pou-
tres, des ponts-dalles et des ponts poutres en caisson. De plus, elle peut tre utilise peu importe le niveau
dadhrence considr entre le revtement et le tablier. La mthode consiste en une modlisation du tablier en tant que
systme bicouche, puis au calcul des tensions et des contraintes sur le systme tablier-revtement en utilisant un sys-
tme multicouche. La mthodologie propose a t applique ltude du comportement des btons bitumineux, des
enrobs drainants et des microbtons bitumineux sur les ponts poutres, les ponts-dalles et les ponts poutres en cais-
son. Une conclusion de cette tude se distingue par sa nature pratique : les revtements microbtons bitumineux offrent
le meilleur rendement si la fatigue constitue la proccupation principale.

Mots cls : tabliers de pont, revtements bitumineux, dimensionnement.

[Traduit par la Rdaction] Castro 702

Introduction deck that will support the pavement is not taken into ac-
The behaviour of the bridge pavement is often unsatisfac-
From the structural engineering point of view, the bitumi- tory, however, with shortcomings due mostly to the lack of
nous pavement of a concrete bridge is not more than a dead consideration given to the structural behaviour of the bridge
load because it does not contribute to the bridge strength due deck in the adopted solutions.
to its low stiffness. This paper presents a methodology for the structural anal-
On the other hand, the most commonly used models for ysis of asphalt pavement on concrete bridge decks. This
the structural design of pavement cannot be applied to methodology has been applied to the comparison of several
bridge pavement, since the deck invalidates the hypotheses pavements located on bridges of different structural types.
on which they are based. In this way, unlike the great variety
of general methods for the structural design of pavement, it State of the art
is difficult to find works in the field of bridge pavement.
So far, selection of the bituminous pavement that will be Bridge asphalt pavement comprises one or several layers
placed on a concrete bridge is made based on the experience of bituminous material whose main function is to provide
of the project engineer. At best, it is chosen from a solutions good surface evenness and appropriate skid resistance and to
catalogue. In this selection, the structural behaviour of the protect the deck from the direct action of traffic and atmo-

Received 19 June 2003. Revision accepted 6 April 2004. Published on the NRC Research Press Web site at http://cjce.nrc.ca on
23 August 2004.
M. Castro.1 Transport Department, Civil Engineering School, Madrid Polytechnic University, Prof. Aranguren s/n, 28040 Madrid,
Spain (e-mail: mcastr@epes.upm.es).
Written discussion of this article is welcomed and will be received by the Editor until 31 December 2004.
Present address: Titulacin de Ingegnera en Geodesia y Cartografa, E.U.I.T. Topografa, Universidad Politcnica de Madrid,
Camino de la Arboleda s/n, Complejo Politcnico de Vallecas, Km. 7 de la Carretera de Valencia, 28031 Madrid, Spain.

Can. J. Civ. Eng. 31: 695702 (2004) doi: 10.1139/L04-032 2004 NRC Canada
696 Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 31, 2004

spheric agents, especially water, freezethaw, and deicing Battiato and Verga (1982), and Tabchi (1984) and the mod-
salts. With the purpose of limiting the dead load on the els of asphalt pavement on steel bridges carried out by Bild
structure, the bridge pavement is usually not as thick as that (1987), Nishizawa et al. (2001), and Huurman et al. (2002).
of the highway. In the case of asphalt pavement on concrete decks, the ex-
The function of deck protection is becoming increasingly isting methods have approached the problem by dividing it
important, since the number of highway administrations that into two: the first is solved using general procedures of
demand or recommend the adoption of some deck protection structural analysis, and the second using layered methods of
system, among which is bituminous pavement, is increasing pavement analysis (De Backer 1980; Tabchi 1984). As an
(PIARC 1995; Manning 1995). It is also necessary to high- exception, is some cases, the objective of the research and
light the practice, very frequent in Europe, of placing a wa- the particular conditions of the study make, according to the
terproofing layer on the deck before building the pavement authors, sufficiently approximate the results from the direct
(OCDE 1972; PIARC 1983, 1987). use of layered systems; however, the authors state that this is
There is a great variety of types of asphalt pavement that not a general method for bridge pavement analysis (Battiato
can be used on concrete decks. The number of layers, com- et al. 1978).
position of the bituminous mix, and thickness usually vary Among the bridge characteristics that should be consid-
from one country to another. According to the most wide- ered in the pavement project, structural stiffness is an essen-
spread practice, the pavement placed on a deck, which may tial factor because it imposes a stiffness requirement on the
have been previously waterproofed, is generally made up of pavement, which should be able to follow the deformations
one or more layers of bituminous mixes whose total thick- of the structure that serves as a support. In this sense, struc-
ness usually varies between 3 and 10 cm (in Spain between tural analysis methods proposed by De Backer (1980) and
5 and 7 cm). A layer of mastic asphalt or asphalt concrete is Tabchi (1984) follow this approach. The bridge stiffness is
sometimes placed on top of the waterproofing. This layer, related to its structural type, geometry, and concrete strength
called a protection or intermediate layer, helps to prevent the characteristics.
possible punching of the waterproofing by upper layers and
to ensure watertightness. When the deck cross-sectional In the first step of the method by De Backer (1980), the
slope is different from the pavement surface final slope it is radius of curvature of deflection of the deck is calculated un-
necessary to place a layer of variable thickness to obtain the der the point where the load is applied. This calculation is
proper shape. This reshaping layer is placed on top of the very difficult for pavement engineers because they are not
protection layer, although sometimes the protection layer is usually experts in bridge structural analysis. The method by
used for the reshaping. The wearing course is placed last and Tabchi (1984) is not applicable to slab decks nor to any
may constitute asphalt concretes, asphalt mastics with the bridge with pavement and deck bonded.
addition of natural asphalt and chippings, gap-graded stone The existing methods for the structural analysis of flexible
matrix asphalts with modified bitumen, porous asphalts, or pavement on concrete bridges share the following features:
dense graded asphalt concretes with modified binders. (1) None of the methods take into account the vibrations of
In areas with a warm climate, like Spain, a single bitumi- the bridge. According to studies by the Belgian Centre
nous layer is usually placed as pavement on top of a deck de Recherches Routires (CRR), the contribution of
that may have been waterproofed (waterproofing is not man- bridge vibrations to asphalt pavement fatigue can be
datory). Often, this layer is the same as the wearing course considered as insignificant (De Backer 1984).
for the rest of the highway. (2) The load is always a vertical pressure. The methods do
In many countries there are not specific standards for not take into account the horizontal forces applied by
bridge pavement and, due to the lack of specific solutions, the tire on the wearing course.
the same wearing course as that for the rest of the highway (3) The methods do not consider partial bond between deck
is sometimes placed on top of the deck, as previously men- and pavement. The method by Tabchi (1984) supposes
tioned. In some countries, there are recommendations for that the existence of a decompression layer made up of
bridge pavement that are usually a mere summary of possi- a veil of fibreglass is equivalent to null bond, and this is
ble solutions (Union Suisse des Professionnels de la Route the only bond hypothesis that he considers. De Backer
1988; Department of Transport 1988; CRR 1987; Ministre (1980) admits the possibility of considering the two ex-
des Travaux Publics 1978), and often they are more intended treme hypotheses of bond, i.e., null and total. In the re-
for waterproofing than for pavement definition, sometimes search of Battiato et al. (1978), the two hypotheses of
adopting for the later, bituminous mixes from the general null and total bond are also considered.
standard. In this sense, and despite also being a solutions (4) The multilayer methods use a circular load correspond-
catalogue, it is necessary to point out the French recommen- ing to a single wheel. The method of Tabchi (1984) also
dations given by the Service dtudes Techniques des considers a single wheel, but it supposes a square load
Routes et Autoroutes (SETRA 1981). In these recommenda- referred to some Cartesian axes coincident with the
tions, criteria are also given for choosing between using a bridge longitudinal and transverse directions.
specific pavement for the bridge or maintaining the same (5) No method studies the pavement and bridge globally. The
pavement as that of the adjacent highway. layered systems study a surface very restricted to the
There is a notable gap in the methods for pavement struc- loaded area. In the method of Tabchi (1984) the studied
tural analysis in the case of pavement located on bridges. It area corresponds to the area between the longitudinal
is necessary to highlight the investigations of asphalt pave- beams of a girder deck or the webs of a box-girder deck
ment on concrete bridges carried out by De Backer (1980), (Tabchi does not study the case of slab decks).

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Bridge pavement structural analysis Fig. 1. Structural design method.

The method presented here has been developed in the
framework of research carried out in the Transport Depart-
ment of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Castro 1996).
It has been developed for asphalt pavement located on the
more widely used types of concrete bridges: girder, slab, and
box girder. Girder, slab, and box-girder bridges constitute
more than 90% of all concrete bridges (Manterola 1995).
The method for the structural analysis of asphalt pave-
ment on concrete bridges is particularly appropriate for the
comparison among different solutions. Furthermore, the
tools and necessary knowledge to use the method allow an
easy practical application for pavement engineers. In the re-
Fig. 2. Girder decks. The arrow indicates the load position.
search carried out, finite element models of the pavement
deck system have also been developed (Castro 1996), but the
time required for preparation and analysis of results makes
these models suitable only for very restricted research
The method presented in this paper uses layered systems,
a classical tool for the structural design of pavements. The
deck is substituted by an equivalent, from a stiffness point of
view, two-layer system. Next, the pavementdeck system is
analysed like a multilayer system made up of the layers of
pavement (one or several) and the previously determined
two-layer system. The load is a vertical normal pressure uni-
formly distributed over a circular surface area corresponding Load position
to a single wheel, and the materials are assumed to be linear The load will be applied at the thinnest point of the con-
elastic. crete deck where vehicle wheels can pass. According to the
The method does not consider vibrations of the bridge be- type of bridge, the load position to consider will be as fol-
cause, according to studies by the CRR (De Backer 1984), lows:
the contribution of bridge vibrations to asphalt pavement fa- (1) Girder decks The load will be placed at the half point
tigue can be considered as insignificant. of the concrete slab between two longitudinal beams
(Fig. 2).
Before applying the method, the project engineer should
(2) Box-girder decks To determine where the load will
set up (i) the number of pavement layers and the thickness,
be placed, it is necessary to choose the smaller thickness
elastic modulus, and Poissons ratio of each layer; (ii) the
between the two following possibilities: the half point of
bridge type and deck cross section and elastic modulus and
the slab between webs, and the most external point in
Poissons ratio of the deck concrete; and (iii) the expected
the lateral cantilevers for which the wheel of a vehicle
degree of bonding between the different layers that consti-
can pass. In this sense, the Spanish standard considers
tute the pavement and between the deck and pavement.
that the centre of the wheel is never located less than
The degree of bonding hypothesis has a big impact on the 0.5 m from the sidewalk, guardrail, or parapet (MFOM
results. The project engineer must choose the most accurate 1998) (Fig. 3).
bond hypothesis. The materials used and the placing condi- (3) Slab decks The load will be placed at the most exter-
tions must be taken into account, such as asphalt coats be- nal point in the lateral cantilevers along which a vehicle
tween pavement layers or between pavement and deck, wheel can pass, in agreement with the same approach
waterproofing of the deck, or decompression layer made up given for box-girder decks (Fig. 4).
of a veil of fibreglass.
To speed up the calculation of stresses and strains it is ad- Two-layer system equivalent to the deck
visable to have a multilayer computer program (software The two-layer system equivalent to the deck is made up of
based on Burmisters layered theory). This program should a concrete layer on top of a homogeneous elastic half-space
allow the introduction of very low values of elastic modulus (Fig. 5). The concrete layer has the thickness, elastic modu-
(as low as 10 Pa) and provide results, in vertical stresses, in lus, and Poissons ratio of the deck under the load-
a format that permits resolution to 0.1 Pa. application point. A zero value will be taken as the Poissons
The procedure is structured in the following four phases ratio for the elastic half-space. The half-space elastic modu-
(Fig. 1): (i) determination of the load position; (ii) determi- lus will be determined with the condition of getting a verti-
nation of a two-layer system equivalent to the deck; (iii) ap- cal stress between 0.1 and 5.0 Pa in the top boundary of the
plication of a multilayer system for the calculation of half-space when there is a circular load, on the concrete
pavement stresses and strains; and (iv) application of a fail- layer, corresponding to that of a single wheel. The difference
ure criterion to estimate the pavement life. in the results considering different degrees of bonding be-

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698 Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 31, 2004

Fig. 3. Box-girder decks. The arrows indicate the load positions.

Fig. 4. Slab decks. The arrow indicates the load position.

Fig. 5. Two-layer system structurally equivalent to the deck. The arrows indicate the load-application point. E*, half-space elastic
modulus for the two-layer system equivalent to the bridge deck; Ec, deck concrete elastic modulus; hc, concrete deck thickness; ,
Poissons ratio; c, deck concrete Poissons ratio.

Fig. 6. Half-space elastic modulus (girder bridges). Fig. 7. Half-space elastic modulus (slab or box-girder bridges).

tween the concrete layer and the homogeneous elastic half- Figure 7 shows the half-space elastic modulus resulting
space is nearly insignificant. from applying the proposed methodology to slab or box-
The recommended values for the half-space elastic modu- girder bridges. Concrete has been assumed to have a charac-
lus are presented in Figs. 6 and 7. These values can be used teristic strength of 35 N/mm2 at 28 days, and deck
to begin the iterations or, if the bridge characteristics match thicknesses of between 20 cm and 1 m have been consid-
one of the calculation hypotheses, the value shown in the ered.
graph can be taken directly as the half-space elastic modu-
lus. Multilayer system
Figure 6 shows the half-space elastic modulus resulting A multilayer system is built by placing one or several lay-
from applying the proposed methodology to girder bridges ers of bituminous mixes on top of the two-layer system de-
with different slab thicknesses. The slab concrete has been termined in the previous phase. The complete multilayer
assumed to have a characteristic strength of 25 N/mm2 at system is composed of the pavement layers, the concrete
28 days. Slab thicknesses of between 20 and 30 cm have layer, and the elastic half-space. The stresses and strains of
been considered because this is the normal range of thick- the layers, due to a circular load, are then calculated by
nesses. means of a multilayer software program. If the pavement has

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Fig. 8. Multilayer system. p, pavement Poissons ratio; hp, pave- practical range of spans corresponding to this bridge type
ment thickness. has been covered.
Two straight bridges with slab decks and constant thick-
ness, without recesses, have been chosen. Lastly, in the case
of box-girder deck bridges, two bridges, made up by a single-
cell box, have been selected, since it is the option more often
used in Spanish motorways.

Analysis of calculated stresses and strains

After determining the two-layer system equivalent to the
bridge in each case, the pavementdeck system has been
studied as a three-layer system made up of the pavement and
the two-layer system.
a single layer of bituminous mix, as is usual in Spain, the The calculations have been made twice, assuming first
multilayer system will have three layers (Fig. 8). that the pavementdeck bond is total and then considering
the opposite, i.e., that the bond is null.
Damage analysis In the hypothesis of null bond between pavement and
Lastly, a failure criterion is applied to estimate the pave- deck, traction strains appear in the lowest fibre of all mixes
ment life. Asphalt pavement on concrete bridges can suffer studied. On the contrary, if total bond is assumed, the strains
the following types of damage: waterproofing blisters, courses are always of the compression type.
flow (waterproofingdeck and pavementwaterproofing), slip- In the hypothesis of null bond, for every type of pavement
page, fatigue cracking, rutting, bleeding, scabbing, and sur- the greatest traction in the lowest fibre is obtained in box-
face degradation (De Backer 1978; OCDE 1972). girder bridges (Fig. 9). For each bridge, the thinner the pave-
ment and the larger the modulus, the smaller the traction
Application strains. Therefore, the smallest traction strain appears in the
stone matrix asphalt (in three of the studied cases this strain
This method has been applied to the study of the behav- is nearly the same as that in the 6 cm thick AC), whereas the
iour of four asphalt pavements on eight bridges of different largest traction strain takes place in the pavement made up
structural types (Castro 1996). of porous asphalt (Fig. 9).
In the total bond hypothesis, it is necessary to highlight
Studied pavements the high shear stresses between the deck and the pavement.
The behaviour of asphalt concretes, stone matrix asphalts, This is a consequence of the large difference between the
and porous asphalts has been studied because they are the elastic modulus of the concrete and that of the bituminous
types of pavement used in Spain. mixture. Due to these high values of shear tension between
As previously mentioned, in the absence of a specific so- the deck and the pavement, there is a high risk that this bond
lution for the bridge pavement, the wearing course of the will disappear with time.
highway is commonly used as bridge pavement in Spain. The results corresponding to the asphalt concretes show
Therefore, a 6 cm thick asphalt concrete (AC) was chosen as that the bond stress increases when the pavement thickness
the first type of pavement to study. The second pavement is decreases. On the other hand, the bond stress also increases
the same asphalt concrete, but its thickness (10 cm) was se- when the difference between the elastic modulus of the
lected to evaluate the influence of increased layer thickness. pavement and that of the deck increases. In all bridges, the
AC is a conventional mixture in Spain with a bitumen con- largest bond stress corresponds to the porous asphalt because
tent of between 4.5% and 4.75% of the weight of the aggre- it is the mix with the smallest modulus and is the second
gates. Both pavements have an elastic modulus of thinnest (Fig. 10).
6000 MPa, obtained in the laboratory at 20 C and 10 Hz If bond stresses corresponding to the same type of pave-
according to the Spanish standard (Centro de Estudios de ment are compared on different bridges, the largest bond
Carreteras 1990a). stress corresponds to box-girder bridges (Fig. 10).
The third pavement is a porous asphalt (PA) with 4.5%
modified bitumen. It is 4 cm thick and has an elastic modu- Failure criterion
lus of 2000 MPa (also at 20 C and 10 Hz). In an inspection of 120 000 m2 of bridge pavement carried
The fourth pavement is a gap-graded stone matrix asphalt out in Germany in the 1980s, cracking was the most widely
(SMA) with a modified bitumen content of from 5% to observed type of damage, as much in concrete bridges as in
5.5%, It is 2 cm thick and has an elastic modulus of steel bridges (Bild 1987). In Spain, around 41% of the
3600 MPa (also measured at 20 C and 10 Hz). A Poissons bridge pavements have cracks according to the Ministerio de
ratio of 0.35 has been adopted in all cases. Obras Pblicas Transportes y Medio Ambiente (MOPTMA
1995). Structural fatigue is, without doubt, among the possi-
Selected bridges ble causes of this cracking.
The behaviour of the four types of pavement has been According to research carried out in Italy, the existence of
analysed on eight bridges. Four bridges with girder decks a thin waterproofing layer is structurally equivalent to a non-
have been selected. They are made up of precast double-T existent bond between pavement and deck (Battiato and
beams and a superimposed slab. Insofar as possible, the Verga 1982). Even if a total bond initially exists, this can be

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700 Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 31, 2004

Fig. 9. Traction strains.

Fig. 10. Maximum bond stress between deck and pavement.

lost because the great difference in elastic modulus between Table 1. Coefficients A and B of the fatigue laws.
the bituminous mixture and the concrete causes a very high
bond shear stress. As already indicated, if pavement and Pavement A B
deck are unbonded, traction strains appear in the bottom of AC (6 cm thick) 3.67 0.23
the bituminous mix. These strains could produce pavement AC (10 cm thick) 3.04 0.14
failure by fatigue. PA 3.57 0.25
In the total bond hypothesis, the pavement is subjected to SMA 3.43 0.17
compressions, so the main possible damage would be per-
manent deformations. According to MOPTMA (1995), rut-
ting and potholes occupy the third place in the frequency
ranking of damage types in bridge pavements in the Spanish is half the initial load. Table 1 shows coefficients A and B of
state road network, after cracking and surface deterioration. the fatigue laws, according to
For the reasons that have just been presented, fatigue
cracking has been considered the only failure criterion. The [1] logr = A + B log N
analysis was made with the maximum traction strains in the
pavement bottom. These strains correspond to the null bond where r is the radial strain multiplied by 106 (microstrains),
hypothesis between deck and pavement. and N is the number of cycles.
Fatigue laws corresponding to Spanish mixes have been Figure 11 shows in logarithmic scale the number of load
chosen (Garca and Martn 1992). These laws have been ob- cycles (axles of 13 t) needed to fatigue each pavement on the
tained using the fatigue test normalized in Spain (Centro de different bridges (girder, slab, and box girder). All the
Estudios de Carreteras 1990b). This test is controlled by dis- studied pavements demonstrated the worst behaviour on
placement so that, during the test, the maximum displace- box-girder bridges from the fatigue strength point of view.
ment of the specimen remains constant while the applied Similarly, the thinner the pavement and the bigger the modu-
load to get that displacement diminishes each cycle. It is as- lus, and obviously the higher the fatigue strength of the bitu-
sumed that fatigue has been reached when the applied load minous mix, the longer the expected pavement fatigue life.

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Fig. 11. Number of axles of 13 t (logarithmic scale).

Therefore, pavements composed of stone matrix asphalts are References

the strongest from the structural fatigue point of view.
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asphalt pavement design. In Proceedings of the 5th International
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