In response to the extensive damage of coastal bridges sustained in recent tsunamis, this paper describes an investigation into tsunami-induced effects on two common bridge types, an open-girder deck with cross-frames and one with solid diaphragms. To this end, large-scale (1:5) physical models with realistic structural members and elastomeric bearings were constructed and tested under a range of unbroken solitary waves and more realistic tsunami-like transient bores. The flexible bearings allowed the superstructure to rotate and translate vertically, thus simulating the wave–structure interaction during the tsunami inundation. Detailed analysis of the experimental data revealed that for both bridge types the resistance mechanism and transient structural response is characterized by a short-duration phase that introduces the maximum overturning moment, upward movement, and rotation of the deck, and a longer-duration phase that introduces significant uplift forces but small moment and rotation due to the fact that the wave is approaching the point of rotation. In the former phase the uplift is resisted mainly by the elastomeric bearings and columns offshore of the center of gravity of the superstructure (C.G.), maximizing their uplift demand. In the latter phase the total uplift is distributed more equally to all the bearings, which tends to maximize the uplift demand in the structural members close to the C.G. The air-entrapment in the chambers of the bridge with diaphragms modifies the wave–structure interaction, introducing (a) a different pattern and magnitude of wave pressures on the superstructure due to the cushioning effect; (b) a 39% average and 148% maximum increase in the total uplift forces; and (c) a 32% average increase of the overturning moment, which has not been discussed in previous studies. Deciphering the exact effect of the trapped air on the total uplift forces is challenging because, although the air consistently increases the quasi-static component of the force, it has an inconsistent and complex effect on the slamming component, which can either increase or decrease. Interestingly, the air also has a complex effect on the uplift demand in the offshore bearings and columns, which can decrease or increase even more than the total deck uplift, and an inconsistent effect on the uplift force of different structural components introduced by the same wave. These are major findings because they demonstrate that the current approach of investigating the effect of trapped air only on the total uplift is insufficient. Last but not least, the study reveals the existence of significant differences in the effects introduced by solitary waves and transient bores, especially when air is trapped beneath the deck; it also provides practical guidance to engineers, who are advised to design the elastomeric bearings offshore of the C.G. for at least 60% and 50% of the total induced uplift force, respectively, for a bridge with cross-frames and one with diaphragms, instead of distributing the total uplift equally to all bearings.
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