Flawed Assumptions and the Failure of Bridge Deck Jints and Bearings


  • The International Concrete Abstracts Portal is an ACI led collaboration with leading technical organizations from within the international concrete industry and offers the most comprehensive collection of published concrete abstracts.

International Concrete Abstracts Portal


Title: Flawed Assumptions and the Failure of Bridge Deck Jints and Bearings

Author(s): Martin P. Burke, Jr.

Publication: Special Publication

Volume: 164


Appears on pages(s): 59-80

Keywords: bearings; bridge decks; bridges (structures); joints (junctions); structural design; Structural Research

Date: 11/1/1996

Most engineering professionals have been educated and trained to appreciate and use a scientific orientation in their specialty. Scientific orientation means an orientation or habit of mind that continually compels and provokes one to reexamine, evaluate, and improve his or her symbolic representations of reality. However, for some situations and in certain circumstances, some professionals, either through neglect or inattention, base their beliefs, decisions, practices, and policies on idealizations that have a tenuous relationship to reality. Consequently, some of their actions are based on flawed assumptions, assumptions that are partly responsible for their questionable decisions and the poor performance of their designs. This is especially true when considering inadequacies that are everywhere evident in the design and construction of bridge deck joints and bearings. This paper describes and discusses a number of flawed assumptions, assumptions made by technicians, novice engineers, supervisory engineers, design administrators, and entire transportation agencies. It urges a greater awareness of reality as the most effective way to appreciate the disparity between the ideal and the real. Such an appreciation will lead to an improvement in basic assumptions, to an improvement in the performance of individuals responsible for design, and ultimately to an improvement in the performance and durability of the structures produced for transportation systems.