USMA Research Unit Affiliation

Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2016

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering


Despite years of concerted effort in the war against terrorism, there still exist terrorist networks and lone wolf actors that continue to threaten people and infrastructure around the world. Among the potential targets of terrorists are the more prominent, high value, and symbolic locations that make up the United States’ critical transportation network. This is an urgent national security issue. While many organizations such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) continue to sponsor experts from professional practice, academia, and other agencies to develop strategies to deter and disrupt such attacks, there is little known about the specific response of riveted connections under high rates of loading. A general lack of access and expertise with riveted connections, which have not been widely used in construction of bridges since the 1950s, and the expense and difficulty in replicating and collecting accurate data for close-in detonation testing on riveted steel connections make it a challenge to analyze and estimate the capacity and behavior of riveted connections. This research focuses on numerical simulation of riveted steel connections under high rates of loading. Finite element modeling using LS-DYNA (2013) is first developed to match the physical testing of A502 Grade 2 riveted structural connections subjected to dynamic and quasi-static shear loadings completed at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). This initial modeling serves as validation for the LS-DYNA (2013) model parameters for response. Subsequent analyses expand on the validated modeling to serve as a numerical prediction of additional riveted connections subjected to dynamic loads. Results from the testing and numerical simulations can serve to expand the capabilities of existing anti-terrorist planning software and serve as an addition to existing bridge protection guidelines. The numerical simulation modeling will fill an important gap in the current knowledge base on the performance of riveted connections under high loading rates that will be of value to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration. Understanding the capacity and behavior of these connections will assist future researchers in developing mitigation strategies against blast loadings.

Partnered Organization(s)

U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, USACE

First Advisor

Dr. Eric B. Williamson

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael D. Engelhardt

Third Advisor

Dr. Todd A. Helwig


The University of Texas at Austin

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