Long-Term Post-Tensioned Beam and Column Exposure Test Specimens: Experimental Program

J. S. West, A. J. Schokker, C. J. Larosche, J. E. Breen, and M. E. Kreger


The use of post-tensioning in bridges can provide durability and structural benefits to the system while expediting the construction process. When post-tensioning is combined with precast elements, traffic interference can be greatly reduced through rapid construction. Post-tensioned concrete substructure elements such as bridge piers, hammerhead bents, and straddle bents have become more prevalent in recent years. Chloride-induced corrosion of steel in concrete is one of the most costly forms of corrosion each year. Coastal substructure elements are exposed to seawater by immersion or spray, and inland bridges may also be at risk due to the application of deicing salts. Corrosion protection of the post-tensioning system is vital to the integrity of the structure because loss of post-tensioning can result in catastrophic failure.

Documentation for durability design of the grout, ducts, and anchorage systems is very limited. The objective of this research is to evaluate the effectiveness of corrosion protection measures for post-tensioned concrete substructures by designing and testing specimens representative of typical substructure elements using state-of-the-art practices in aggressive chloride exposure environments. This evaluation was accomplished through long-term exposure testing of twenty-seven large-scale beam specimens and ten large-scale column specimens.

Long-term exposure testing of the beam and column specimens is ongoing, but preliminary findings indicate increased corrosion protection with increasing levels of post-tensioning, although traditional fully prestressed sections may not give as high a benefit to cost ratio as partially prestressed sections with high percentages of prestressing steel. Specimens with low permeable concrete are showing better corrosion protection than specimens with the standard concrete for bridge substructures used by the Texas Department of Transportation. Recommendations and guidelines for durable design of post-tensioned bridge substructures were developed from the findings to date, and supplementary information will be provided after final autopsy of all specimens.

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