Seismic Vulnerability of the Highway System

Task D2-2: Develop and Evaluate a Prototype Intelligent Passive Seismic Response Modification Device

Subject Area: Seismic Response Modification Devices
Research Year 3

Principal Investigator and Institution

George C. Lee & Zach Liang, University at Buffalo


Research Year 3 will continue the refinement of a second-generation roller bearing isolation device which was conceived and developed in Research Years 1 and 2, and the validation of the device performance. Specifically, this will involve the addition of a fail-safe feature to the bearing using a semi-active scheme, and full-scale field testing of the upgraded roller bearing system.


This task is a continuation of work conducted in Research Year 2 to pursue a second generation seismic isolation bearing. It was conceived and developed based on theoretical formulations of bridges with isolators by using a multiple degree-of-freedom model. This new bridge isolation bearing system is constructed of steel rollers capable of reducing column base shears while limiting differential displacements between the super- and substructure.

A prototype bearing is under design and construction at the University at Buffalo. The primary goals during Research Year 3 are to complete fabrication of the bearing, and conduct evaluation tests in the laboratory; at this time, it is expected that the laboratory testing will be conducted at the University of Nevada, Reno. Other laboratory and field tests on in-service bridges may also be arranged, as demonstration projects.

Two states will be contacted for possible demonstration projects - Illinois DOT and New York State DOT. Funding for the field demonstration projects will be requested from the State DOTs and from the FHWA innovative project funds.


  • Several bridge isolation bearings for laboratory evaluations capable of supporting loads of 20 k vertical 3 k horizontal.
  • Preliminary design guidelines for this bridge isolation bearing.
  • Proposals to selected State DOTs for field demonstration applications.

Technical Challenges

The major challenges are primarily related to the limited task budget; this includes concerns about shipping to and testing costs at the University of Nevada, and the need for funding to support the field demonstrations that may be conducted in conjunction with the State DOTs.

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