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Sause earns major award for bridge girder research

Richard Sause

Richard Sause, the Joseph T. Stuart Professor of Structural Engineering, has received a top honor for a journal article that describes research leading to a new type of bridge girder.

Sause, who directs Lehigh’s ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems) Center, has been chosen by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to receive the J. James R. Croes Medal. The award is the second-highest given by ASCE for papers published in an ASCE journal that make a meritorious contribution to engineering science.

Sause is sharing the award with Robert Driver and Hassan H. Abbas. Driver, now an associate professor at the University of Alberta, was a visiting research scholar at ATLSS from 1997 to 2000 and again in 2004. Abbas, now an assistant professor at Auburn University, earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 2004.

The award-winning paper by Sause, Driver and Abbas, titled “Shear Behavior of Corrugated Web Bridge Girders,” was published in 2006 in the Journal of Structural Engineering.

The paper described the results of part of a larger project in which the researchers developed an innovative steel girder system for bridges that uses a corrugated steel plate as a component of the girders. Most medium-span bridges are supported by conventional steel, I-shaped girders, Sause says, but corrugated web girders are lighter and stiffer.

Two firsts for corrugated girders

Sause’s team developed the first design guidelines in the U.S. for steel corrugated web highway bridge girders. In 2005, these guidelines were used to build the first highway bridge with corrugated web girders in the U.S. The bridge spans Towanda Creek outside of Towanda in Bradford County, Pa.

To investigate the corrugated web girder system, the three researchers conducted theoretical and finite element studies, fabricating several full-scale corrugated web girders and testing them in Fritz Laboratory to evaluate their bending, fatigue and shear behavior. The award-winning paper reported their results on shear behavior, which is the ability of horizontally oriented girders to support transverse loads from the weight of the bridge and from cars and trucks crossing the bridge.

The paper included a rigorous analysis by Abbas of previously reported data.

“His analysis helped us understand the variations in data from corrugated web girder experiments from all over the world,” Sause says. “Ultimately this analysis, along with our own finite element studies and experiments, allowed us to develop safe design guidelines despite the significant scatter in previous results.”

The project was funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The research was conducted in collaboration with PennDOT and two Pennsylvania companies—High Steel Structures Inc., a Lancaster-based fabricator of structural steel, and the bridge engineering firm Modjeski and Masters Inc., which is headquartered in Harrisburg.

The Croes Medal was created in 1912 in honor of John James Robertson Croes, a former president of ASCE. After the Norman Medal, it recognizes the second-most significant contribution to engineering science from among ASCE-published papers.

Founded in 1852, the ASCE has 140,000 international members and is the oldest national engineering society in the U.S.

--Becky Straw

Posted on Sunday, September 16, 2007

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