American Society of Civil Engineers


Lessons from the Collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge


by Chris Storey, (Student, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1075 13th Street South, Suite 120, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-4440) and Norbert Delatte, M.ASCE, (Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1075 13th Street South, Suite 120, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-4440)

pp. 158-167, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/40692(241)18)

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Forensic Engineering (2003)
Abstract: The Schoharie Creek Bridge collapsed on the morning of April 5, 1987 after three decades of service, during a near record flood. The collapse of pier three caused two spans to fall into the flooded creek. Five vehicles fell into the river, and ten occupants died. Over time, the backfill material around pier three had gradually eroded and been replaced by waterborne deposits. In the flood, scour undermined and cracked the pier. Bridges across waterways must be designed structurally not only to carry their own weight and traffic loads, but also to resist the hydraulic forces imposed by rivers and other bodies of water. Moreover, the construction of the bridge abutments and piers alters the river’s flow, and may lead to new patterns of erosion and deposition. The collapse of the Schoharie Creek Bridge illustrates the importance of designing bridge piers to resist scour. The case also suggested some important changes to bridge inspection, maintenance, and management practices.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Bridge failures
California
Failure investigations
Forensic engineering