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Performance of seismic-isolated bridges with and without elastic-gap devices in near-fault zones

In this paper, the efficiency of providing elastic-gap devices (EGDs) to improve the performance of seismic- isolated bridges (SIBs) in near-fault (NF) zones is investigated. The device is primarily made of an assembly of circular rubber bearings and steel plates to provide additional elastic stiffness to the SIB upon closure of a gap. The EDG is intended to function at two performance levels under service and maximum considered design level (MCDL) NF earthquakes to reduce isolator displacements while keeping the substructure forces at reasonable levels. A parametric study, involving more than 500 nonlinear time history analyses of realistic and simplified structural models of typical SIBs, is conducted using simulated and actual NF ground motions to investigate the applicability of the proposed solution. It is found that providing EGD is beneficial for reducing the isolator displacements to manageable ranges for SIBs subjected to MCDL NF ground motions regardless of the distance from the fault and characteristics of the isolator. It is also found that providing EGD resulted in an improved performance of the isolators in terms of the reduction of heat generated by the isolators. Further analyses conducted using a realistic structural model of an existing bridge and five NF earthquakes confirmed that EGD may be used to reduce the displacement of the isolators while keeping the substructure base shear forces at reasonable ranges for SIBs located in NF zones. Copyright (C) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.