Seismic Vulnerability of the Highway System

Task F4-1: Earthquake Reconnaissance
Subject Area: Special Studies

Principal Investigator(s) and Institution(s)
Ian M. Friedland, MCEER

Objective and Approach
When damaging earthquakes occur, it is important to assemble and have on-site an earthquake reconnaissance team as soon after the earthquake as possible. There are many lessons that can be learned and technical information obtained from such an exercise by gathering and documenting data on the behavior and performance of soils, foundations, and structures (both for structures that performed poorly and those that performed well in the regions of strong ground shaking). As a result, there is a need to ensure that a reconnaissance team comprised of geotechnical and structural engineers can be quickly assembled and their expenses covered for these activities. If there is a delay in getting the team to the site, there is a significant chance that important information will be lost or structures may become inaccessible due to emergency response and reconstruction activities following the event.

For example, following both the 1994 Northridge and 1995 Kobe earthquakes, the MCEER Highway Project supported reconnaissance teams to document bridge and highway system performance and damage. The Kobe earthquake reconnaissance efforts identified, among other things, that many steel bearings and girder restrainers failed or did not perform as expected. This resulted in the initiation of several studies under the FHWA/MCEER Project DTFH61-92-C-00106, in order to develop an understanding of this performance and develop improvements in the analytical models and retrofit designs.

Under Task F4-1, a pool of funds related to earthquake reconnaissance is being reserved under this project, so that a reconnaissance team can be assembled and dispatched within hours of a damaging earthquake in North America or in other countries for which we have reconnaissance support agreements in place. Task F4-1 will also provide for the rapid compilation of reports documenting the event and dissemination of this information to the bridge engineering profession. The task will continue throughout the life of the contract.

Anticipated Start Date and Duration
January 1, 1999 - 72 months