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Seismic Design of Concrete Bridges in California

California transportation agencies are required to adopt the AASHTO load-and-resistance factor design (LRFD) specifications plus the California Amendments written by Caltrans for design of all new bridges.

For seismic design, Caltrans does not follow the AASHTO specification, but rather relies on the Seismic Design Criteria (SDC) developed internally at Caltrans. Currently, Caltrans is updating SDC Ver 1.7 and Ver 2.0 is expected to be officially released in 2019.

This 2-day course provides practical training for bridge design engineers and technicians on the application of the new Caltrans Seismic Design Criteria (Ver 2.0) for the design of typical concrete bridges in California.

In particular, it will focus on slab and cast-in place post-tensioned box girder structures. Structural components critical to the seismic performance of the bridge are covered, including columns, bentcaps, abutments and hinges. While this course does not cover foundation design, one session will discuss the latest research findings pertaining to the design (or retrofit) of foundations subjected to liquefaction and lateral spread.

This course is a hands-on training that combines lectures, class exercises on actual bridge design problems, and discussion. Various bridge design examples utilizing SDC 2.0 are highlighted throughout the training.

Additional course detail is provided in the sections below.

  • Course Topics
    • Seismic design philosophy
    • Bent design including pushover analysis
    • Superstructure & bent cap connection
    • Abutment and hinge design
    • Recent design guidance pertaining to liquefaction
    • Design problems and examples
  • Course Outline
    Session 1:Introduction
        1.1. Classroom Logistics
        1.2. Goal of Course
        1.3. Course Overview
        1.4. Seismic Design Criteria Overview (SDC 1.0)
        1.5. Bridge Performance – 2014 Napa Earthquake
        1.6. Improving Seismic Resiliency
        1.7. Key References
    Session 2: General Design Requirements (SDC 3.0, 7.1)
        2.1. Earthquake Resisting Elements
        2.2. Seismic Design Hazard
        2.3. Material Properties
        2.4. Effective Section Properties
        2.5. Global Displacement Criteria
        2.6. Load and Resistance Factors
        2.7. Balance Stiffness and Frame Geometry (SDC 7.1)
    Session 3: Seismic Analysis / Deformation Demands (SDC 4.0)
        3.1. Background – Seismic Demand
        3.2. Seismic Deformation Analysis Methods
        3.3. Structural Modelling
        3.4. Deformation Demands
        3.5. Two Span Bridge Example
    Session 4: Deformation Capacity (SDC 5.0)
        4.1. Inelastic Static Analysis (ISA)
        4.2. Local Displacement Capacity
        4.3. Global Displacement Capacity
    Session 5: Seismic Critical Member Design
        5.1. Sizing of columns and bent caps
        5.2. Column reinforcement requirements
        5.3. Axial load limits on columns
        5.4. Balanced stiffness
        5.5. Balanced frame geometry
        5.6. Local displacement capacity
        5.7. Local displacement ductility
        5.8. Displacement ductility demand
        5.9. Global displacement capacity
        5.10. P-Delta effects
        5.11. Minimum flexural capacity
        5.12. Column shear design
        5.13. Column key design
    Session 6: Capacity Protected Member Design
        6.1. General
        6.2. Flexural Capacity of Bent Cap
        6.3. Shear Capacity of Bent Cap
        6.4. Superstructure and Bent Cap Seismic Capacity
        6.5. Type II Shaft Transverse Reinforcement
        6.6. Bent Cap Design Example
        6.7. Class Example
    Session 7: Superstructure Seismic Strength
        7.1. Background
        7.2. Superstructure Seismic Demands
        7.3. Superstructure Section Capacity (SDC 7.2)
        7.4. Example Problem
    Session 8: Joint Shear Design
        8.1. Joint proportioning
        8.2. Types of joints
        8.3. Joint shear reinforcement
        8.4. Bridge example
    Session 9: Abutments (SDC 6.3)
        9.1. Supporting Research
        9.2. Seismic Design Criteria
        9.3. Example Problem
        9.4. Interactive Class Problem
    Session 10: Recent / On-Going Research
        10.1. Slab Bridges
        10.2. Probabilistic Seismic Design Methods
        10.3. Recovery Columns
        10.4. Liquefaction
    Session 11: Design of Slab Bridges
        11.1. Background
        11.2. Modifications due to Recent Research
        11.3. Seismic Design Requirements
        11.4. Interactive Class Design Problem
    Session 12: Course Evaluations and Certificates
        12.1. Course Evaluations
        12.2. Certificates of Attendance
  • What you will learn

    By the end of this course, students will have a general understanding of the design philosophy underlying the Caltrans Seismic Design Criteria (SDC) as well as a basic understanding of how to design standard concrete bridges that satisfy Caltrans Seismic Design Criteria.

  • Who should attend

    This course is designed for bridge engineers and technicians from California public agencies and the private sector, who wish to understand how the recently released Caltrans Seismic Design Criteria (SDC 2.0) can be used to design standard concrete bridges to achieve a uniform level of bridge safety. Recent advances in calculating forces due to liquefaction and lateral spread will be introduced.

    Note that in California, the SDC supersedes the seismic design criteria contained in the 8th Edition of the AASHTO LRFD specifications.

  • Course Prerequisites

      Please bring a pencil and calculator for in class problems.

  • Course Instructors

      Sami Megally, PhD, PE, SE, Principal Engineer, Kleinfelder

      Dr. Megally has over 29 years of research and analysis/design experience in reinforced and prestressed concrete structures. He is an expert in the field of seismic performance and serviceability of bridges and other structures, and served as a voting member of the ACI Committee 421 (Reinforced Concrete Slabs) and the ASBI (American Segmental Bridge Institute) Construction Practices Committee.

      Dr. Megally has also been the researcher/project manager for several research projects including monitoring of long-term deformations of the Confederation Bridge in Canada and seismic research projects for Caltrans. Dr. Megally has been project engineer on many bridge design and analysis projects, including segmental bridges, cable-stayed bridges and a suspension bridge.

      Charles Sikorsky, PhD, PE, Instructor, Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies

      Dr. Sikorsky joined Berkeley ITS after twenty-five years with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Dr Sikorsky's field experience at Caltrans includes the retrofit of the I-280 Viaduct Retrofit Project in San Francisco damaged after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, as well as construction of the West Approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The past fifteen years were spent managing the Seismic Research Program and later the Geotechnical-Structures Research Program, which incorporated the Seismic Research Program.

      His research interests also include developing nondestructive damage evaluation methods to evaluate structural safety and life cycle costs. He has published over 40 journal articles and conference papers. He also served as the Department Liaison to the Caltrans Seismic Advisory Board (SAB) and as Program Manager for the Caltrans Seismic Response Modification Device (SRMD) Facility at UCSD. He was an expert panel member for the Federal Highway Administration Long Term Bridge Performance Program and is one of the founding editors for Structural Health Monitoring.

  • Registration Information

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      If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the TechTransfer Registrar at (510) 643-4393 or

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LTAP Subsidized

This class is offered at a reduced fee to employees of California's city, county, regional, and tribal public agencies

Course Fee

Standard Rate:

Public Agency Rate:



Course Credit

This course grants:

1.60 CEUs

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