Despite the recent developments in structural health monitoring, there remain great challenges for accurately, conveniently, and economically assessing the in-service performance of the main cables for long-span suspension bridges. A long-term structural health monitoring technique is developed to measure the tension force with a conventional sensing technology and further provide the in-service performance assessment strategy of the main cable. The monitoring system adopts conventional vibrating strings transducers to monitor the tension forces of separate cable strands of the main cable in the anchor span. The performance evaluation of the main cable is conducted based on the collected health monitoring data: (1) the measured strand forces are used to derive the overall tension force of a main cable, which is further translated into load bearing capacity assessment using the concept of safety factor; and (2) the proposed technique can also evaluate the uniformity of tension forces from different cable strands. The assessment of uniformity of strand forces of a main cable offers critical information in terms of potential risks of partial damage and performance deterioration of the main cable. The results suggest the proposed low-cost monitoring system is an option to provide approximate estimation of tension forces of main cables for suspension bridges. With the long-term monitoring data, the proposed monitoring-based evaluation methods can further provide critical information to assess the safety and serviceability performance of main cables.
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