Modelling of shear keys in bridge structures under seismic loads

Kaiming Bi, Hong Hao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Shear keys are used in the bridge abutments and piers to provide transverse restraints for bridge superstructures. Owing to the relatively small dimensions compared to the main bridge components (girders, piers, abutments, piles), shear keys are normally regarded as secondary component of a bridge structure, and their influences on bridge seismic responses are normally neglected. In reality, shear keys are designed to restrain the lateral displacements of bridge girders, which will affect the transverse response of the bridge deck, thus influence the overall structural responses. To study the influences of shear keys on bridge responses to seismic ground excitations, this paper performs numerical simulations of the seismic responses of a two-span simply-supported bridge model without or with shear keys in the abutments and the central pier. A detailed 3D finite element (FE) model is developed by using the explicit FE code LS-DYNA. The bridge components including bridge girders, piers, abutments, bearings, shear keys and reinforcement bars are included in the model. The non-linear material behaviour including the strain rate effects of concrete and steel rebar are considered. The seismic responses of bridge structures without and with shear keys subjected to bi-axial spatially varying horizontal ground motions are calculated and compared. The failure mode and damage mechanism of shear keys are discussed in detail. Numerical results show that shear keys restrain transverse movements of bridge decks, which influence the torsional-lateral responses of the decks under bi-axial spatially varying ground excitations; neglecting shear keys in bridge response analysis may lead to inaccurate predictions of seismic responses of bridge structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-68
Number of pages13
JournalSoil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D model
  • Damage mechanism
  • Failure mode
  • Seismic response
  • Shear key

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Modelling of shear keys in bridge structures under seismic loads'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this