Development and Testing of Crashworthy Ipe Bridge Rails

Bridge and guard rails are extraordinarily common along roads and highways around the world (Ritter et al. 1999, Wacker and Smith 2001). Even the most low-traveled rural bridge likely has rails installed for safety, and of course interstate highway systems have rails that can vary from concrete along bridges to cable lines across medians and metal railings at shoulders. Various types of railing have been studied for decades, and excellent design guidelines exist for nearly every class of railing. Typical types of railing can include formed steel in the shape of convex shell structures, simple solid wood timbers spliced with lap joints, hollow steel or other metal tubing that can be arrayed in either its strong or weak direction to adjust the stiffness at impact, glu-lam beams attached to solid wood posts, and cable "rails". Clearly, there are massive differences in cost and effectiveness between various barriers, and there are only limited numbers of studies that have attempted to compare the various types of railing (Shankar et al. 2000, Plaxico et al. 2000). This study completes a thorough review of all previously published studies of guardrails (including both performance and cost) throughout the United States along with collecting data on guard rail events in Colorado. But the primary emphasis of this work is exploring the use of an extremely durable and tough alternative structural material: the hardwood commonly known as ipe, also known as Brazilian walnut (ocotea porosa). Ipe has tremendous benefits compared to existing alternatives and has yet to be used in conjunction with transportation structures. In fact, there are almost no studies related to its structural performance. This is in part because it is an imported wood, and has a slightly higher cost than common structural wood species. But it appears to have excellent potential for use in applications where durability, environmental stability, and strength/stiffness are paramount.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $122000
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    Office of Research, Development, and Technology
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC    20590
  • Project Managers:

    Kline, Robin

  • Performing Organizations:

    Colorado State University

    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Campus Delivery 1372
    Fort Collins, Colorado  United States  80523
  • Principal Investigators:

    Heyliger, Paul

  • Start Date: 20130101
  • Expected Completion Date: 20160131
  • Actual Completion Date: 20180117
  • Source Data: MPC-416

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01484098
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Mountain-Plains Consortium
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT12-G-UTC08
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Jun 18 2013 1:00AM