Evaluating Bridges With Unknown Foundations for Susceptibility to Scour: North Carolina Applies Risk-Based Guidelines to Over 3,750 Bridges

by Mohammed A. Mulla, P.E., Assistant State Geotechnical Engineer; North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC, mmulla@ncdot.dov,


Serial Information: Geo-Strata —Geo Institute of ASCE, 2015, Vol. 19, Issue 1, Pg. 52-56


Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: Scour occurs when flowing water removes erodible material such as sand and rock. For bridges over water, scour affects the stability of pier and abutment foundations and contributes to an estimated 60 percent of all U.S. bridge failures. When a bridge fails, it causes loss of property–sometimes loss of lives–and disrupts traffic. With this type of public safety hazard at stake, it's crucial to evaluate all bridges over or near water and determine their susceptibility to scour. A proper evaluation of a bridge's vulnerability to scour requires understanding the foundation soils, hydraulics, foundation type, depth, geometry, and material(s) comprising the foundations of the bridge.

Subject Headings: Bridges | Scour | North Carolina | Risk management | Erosion |

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