Comparison of modified yield-line and punching shear capacities for concrete traffic barriers and bridge rails

Andrew E. Loken, Joshua S. Steelman, Scott K. Rosenbaugh, Ronald K. Faller, John M. Holt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The traditional, triangular yield-line method used by most departments of transportation for analyzing concrete traffic barriers and bridge rails has been largely unchanged since 1978. Testing of concrete barriers since this time has indicated that the triangular yield-line method is not qualitatively representative of observed damage patterns and is overconservative. Further, the conversion from NCHRP Report 350 to the crash test criteria from the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) will result in increases to lateral impact loads; therefore, overconservative analysis practices may result in many concrete barriers being unnecessarily deemed inadequate. In this research, alternative analysis methods for concrete barriers were extracted from an extensive literature review of concrete barrier investigations. These methods were applied to a sample of eight concrete barriers to demonstrate and compare their effects on capacity estimates. Alternative methods included trapezoidal yield-line mechanisms, effects of impact heights lower than the top of the barrier, punching shear evaluation, and consideration of expected material strengths. Capacity estimates of the selected barriers were increased by an average of 47 percent when alternative methods were cumulatively applied. Although the traditional method does not consider punching shear, the capacity of one of the eight barriers was controlled by punching shear rather than by yield-line flexure. With the alternative methods applied, seven of the eight barriers were deemed adequate relative to the increased lateral loads corresponding to MASH criteria for Test Levels 2 through 5. By contrast, if analyzed according to the traditional method, three of the eight barriers would have been deemed insufficient considering MASH loads.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTransportation Research Record
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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