Application of Steel Sheet-Piles for the Abutment of Water-Crossing Bridges in Nebraska

Sheet piles are recommended to be installed for most water-crossing bridges, along with load-bearing piles (e.g., usually H-piles or pipe piles), to avoid the scouring problem and protect backfill soils in Nebraska (Section 4.1 of BOPP). Sheet piles have also been frequently applied to semi-integral abutment bridges in Nebraska. While the sheet piling is not recommended for resisting any vertical load in the current BOPP, recent studies (Sylvain et al., 2017; Panchal et al., 2020) suggested that sheet piles could be employed for both axial load-bearing and backfill retaining for either short-span or low-traffic volume road bridges. Nevertheless, there have been limited resources in terms of design, analysis (e.g., calculation of vertical and lateral load-bearing capacity of sheet piles under such superstructures), and construction strategies. On the other hand, there are significant numbers of short-span bridges in Nebraska that may need repair/replacement in the near future. According to the Nebraska bridge data from the Datacenterhub (, there are 8,052 single-span bridges in Nebraska out of a total of 17,717 bridges surveyed. And 8,353 bridges’ span length is shorter than 70 ft. Many of those bridges were built a long time ago. For instance, about 3,900 bridges were built in the 1930s and may require replacement or repair/strengthening. It was also observed that a significant portion of those short-span bridges is located in the eastern part of the state due to smaller tributaries from the Missouri River. In this regard, we are expecting high needs in the near future for bridge repairs and replacements for those short-span and/or low-traffic volume bridges. And many of them are water-crossing bridges. Steel sheet piles have been identified as a possible option for those short-span or low-volume road bridges. There are two principal ways where sheet piles are used in the bridge abutment: as cantilever walls or anchored walls. In contrast, there are not many projects in the US in which the axially loaded sheet piles were used in the bridge abutment. Nebraska counties do have multi-beam (planks) bridges sitting on bearing piles with sheet piles used as abutments. However, these sheet piles are not necessarily carrying the beams or used as axially loaded members. They are rather installed to protect backfill soils and avoid scouring. It was noted that more in-depth research is needed due to the lack of experience in regard to the design, analysis (e.g., vertical and lateral load resistances), load test, and construction procedure in the recent project report by Iowa DOT (Evans et al., 2012). For example, it was noted that there is no specific design procedure in the US partly because the concept of axially loaded sheet piling is relatively new here. Sheet piles are analyzed as a soil retaining structure in most design practices, as in Nebraska, which means the lateral soil pressure would control the design approach. The combined effect of axial and lateral loading needs to be considered when the axially loaded sheet pile abutment system is intended in the design.


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    • Status: Completed
    • Funding: $155304
    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Nebraska Department of Transportation

      1500 Nebraska 2
      Lincoln, NE  United States  68502
    • Project Managers:

      Halsey, Lieska

    • Principal Investigators:

      Sim, Chungwook

      Kim, Seunghee

      Eun, Jongwan

      Song, Chung

    • Start Date: 20210701
    • Expected Completion Date: 20230531
    • Actual Completion Date: 0

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01769367
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Nebraska Department of Transportation
    • Files: RIP, STATEDOT
    • Created Date: Apr 12 2021 2:37PM