This report documents the findings and lessons learned from the February 27, 2010, M8.8 offshore Maule earthquake in Chile. Fewer than 0.15 percent of the bridges in Chile's inventory, most built after 1995, collapsed or suffered damage that rendered them useless. Many spans of precast prestressed discontinuous girder bridges with continuous decks fell off their supports, probably due to significant in-plane rotation of the superstructure as a result of severe shaking. Lateral steel stoppers used to provide both vertical and lateral restraints on girders were largely unsuccessful due to their inadequate connection detail to cap beams and abutments. Reinforced concrete shear keys performed well as fuses limiting the transfer of excessive seismic loads from the superstructure to the foundation of bridges even though they could be optimized for maximum energy dissipation as part of the lateral restraint system at the bottom flange of girders. Vertical seismic bars were widely used to restrain the vertical motion of decks, and they also performed well. Bridge substructures (foundation, column, and cap beam) generally behaved satisfactorily except for two columns that suffered shear failure due to ground settlement and lateral spreading. All mechanically stabilized earth walls exceeded the expected performance.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering


Federal Highway Administration

Keywords and Phrases

Seismic Performance; Bridge Damage; Superstructure Rotation; Retaining Wall; Soil Liquefaction; Lateral Spreading

Report Number


Document Type

Technical Report

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2011 Federal Highway Administration; Missouri University of Science and Technology; University of Nevada Reno; Washington State Department of Transportation, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2011