Experimental and numerical analysis of the lateral response of full-scale bridge piers


  • Pavan Chigullapally University of Auckland
  • Lucas Hogan University of Auckland, NZ
  • Liam Wotherspoon University of Auckland, NZ
  • Max Stephens University of Auckland, NZ
  • Michael Pender University of Auckland, NZ




This paper presents the results of in-situ testing of two integrated pile-columns of a partially demolished bridge located in Auckland, New Zealand. A series of tests involving lateral monotonic pushover and subsequent dynamic free vibration snapback tests were used to quantify the variation in the stiffness and damping behaviour of the pile-column specimens over a range of lateral load levels. Each testing sequence consisted of incrementally increasing peak monotonic loads followed by the dynamic snapback, with a series of varying peak loads at the end of the testing sequence to evaluate the influence of loading history on the monotonic and dynamic response. The secant stiffness between the monotonic pushover tests performed to the same loading levels before and after the maximum load was applied, reduced by up to 40% in both the pile-columns, primarily due to soil gapping effects, highlighting the significant potential softening of the system prior to pile or column yielding. Progressive reduction in the damping of the system during each snapback test was evident, due to the varying contributions of different energy dissipation mechanisms, and the level of damping varied depending on the peak load applied. These results highlighted the significant influence of soil gapping and nonlinearity on the dynamic response of the system. Numerical models were developed in the open source structural analysis software OpenSeesPy using a Nonlinear Beam on Winkler Foundation approach to further investigate the response of the pile-columns. Models of both the pile-columns using existing p-y curves for clay soils showed good agreement with the experimental data in load-displacement, period and snapback acceleration time histories. Sensitivity analysis showed that the surface soft clay layer had a significant effect on the lateral response and dynamic characteristics of the model, reinforcing the need for good characterisation of the near surface soil profile to capture the behaviour of the system.


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How to Cite

Chigullapally, P., Hogan, L., Wotherspoon, L., Stephens, M., & Pender, M. (2022). Experimental and numerical analysis of the lateral response of full-scale bridge piers. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 55(2), 95–111. https://doi.org/10.5459/bnzsee.55.2.95-111