Rapid-estimation method for assessing scour at highway bridges



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A method was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey for rapid estimation of scour at highway bridges using limited site data and analytical procedures to estimate pier, abutment, and contraction scour depths. The basis for the method was a procedure recommended by the Federal Highway Administration for conducting detailed scour investigations, commonly referred to as the Level 2 method. Using pier, abutment, and contraction scour results obtained from Level 2 investigations at 122 sites in 10 States, envelope curves and graphical relations were developed that enable determination of scour-depth estimates at most bridge sites in a matter of a few hours. Rather than using complex hydraulic variables, surrogate variables more easily obtained in the field were related to calculated scour-depth data from Level 2 studies. The method was tested by having several experienced individuals apply the method in the field, and results were compared among the individuals and with previous detailed analyses performed for the sites. Results indicated that the variability in predicted scour depth among individuals applying the method generally was within an acceptable range, and that conservatively greater scour depths generally were obtained by the rapid-estimation method compared to the Level 2 method. The rapid-estimation method is considered most applicable for conducting limited-detail scour assessments and as a screening tool to determine those bridge sites that may require more detailed analysis. The method is designed to be applied only by a qualified professional possessing knowledge and experience in the fields of bridge scour, hydraulics, and flood hydrology, and having specific expertise with the Level 2 method.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Conference Paper
Publication Subtype:
Conference Paper
Rapid-estimation method for assessing scour at highway bridges
Year Published:
Publisher location:
Reston, VA, United States
Larger Work Title:
International Water Resources Engineering Conference - Proceedings
First page:
Last page:
Conference Title:
Proceedings of the 1998 International Water Resources Engineering Conference. Part 2 (of 2)
Conference Location:
Memphis, TN, USA
Conference Date:
3 August 1998 through 7 August 1998