Seismic fragility estimates for corroding reinforced concrete bridges

Jinquan Zhong, Paolo Gardoni, David Rosowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Seismic fragility of reinforced concrete (RC) bridges is defined as the conditional probability that the seismic demand exceeds the corresponding capacity, specified for a certain performance level, for given seismic intensity measures. However, the structural properties of RC bridges change over time due to the onset of corrosion in the reinforcing steel. Therefore, seismic fragility of RC bridges changes during a bridge lifetime. This paper proposes a method to estimate the seismic fragility of corroding RC bridges. Structural capacities are defined using probabilistic models for deformation and shear capacities of RC columns. Probabilistic models are also used to estimate the corresponding demands for given seismic intensity measures. The capacity and demand models are then combined with probabilistic models for chloride-induced corrosion and time-dependent corrosion rate to model the dependency on time of the seismic fragility of RC bridges. In particular, the loss of reinforcing steel is modelled as a function of the thickness of the cover concrete for each reinforcing bar in the RC columns. The stiffness degradation in the cover concrete over time due to corrosion-induced cracking is also considered in the fragility estimates. Seismic fragility estimates are then formulated at the column, bent, and bridge levels. The fragility formulations properly incorporate the uncertainties in the capacity and demand models, and the inexactness (or model error) in modelling the material deterioration. The proposed method accounts for the variation of structural capacity and seismic demand over time due to the effects of corrosion in the reinforcing steel. As an application, seismic fragility estimates are developed for a corroding RC bridge with 11 two-column bents over a 100-year period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-69
Number of pages15
JournalStructure and Infrastructure Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • bridges
  • corrosion
  • cracking
  • reinforced concrete
  • stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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