Limited site data were used to develop a method for rapid estimation of scour at highway bridges. The estimates can be obtained in a matter of hours rather than several days as required by more-detailed methods. Such a method is important because scour assessments are needed to identify scour-critical bridges throughout the United States. Using detailed scour-analysis methods and scour-prediction equations recommended by the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Montana Department of Transportation, obtained contraction, pier, and abutment scour-depth data for sites from 10 States.The data were used to develop relations between scour depth and hydraulic variables that can be rapidly measured in the field. Relations between scour depth and hydraulic variables, in the form of envelope curves, were based on simpler forms of detailed scour-prediction equations. To apply the rapid-estimation method, a 100-year recurrence interval peak discharge is determined, and bridge- length data are used in the field with graphs relating unit discharge to velocity and velocity to bridge backwater as a basis for estimating flow depths and other hydraulic variables that can then be applied using the envelope curves. The method was tested in the field. Results showed good agreement among individuals involved and with results from more-detailed methods. Although useful for identifying potentially scour-critical bridges, themethod does not replace more-detailed methods used for design purposes. Use of the rapid- estimation method should be limited to individuals having experience in bridge scour, hydraulics, and flood hydrology, and some training in use of the method.
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USGS Numbered Series
Method for rapid estimation of scour at highway bridges based on limited site data
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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