About the research
The ends of prestressed concrete beams under expansion joints are often exposed to moisture and chlorides. Left unprotected, the moisture and chlorides come in contact with the ends of the prestressing strands and/or the mild reinforcing, resulting in corrosion. Once deterioration begins, it progresses unless some process is employed to address it. Deterioration can lead to loss of bearing area and therefore a reduction in bridge capacity.
Previous research has looked into the use of concrete coatings (silanes, epoxies, fiber-reinforced polymers, etc.) for protecting prestressed concrete beam ends but found that little to no laboratory research has been done related to the performance of these coatings in this specific type of application.
The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) currently specifies a treatment plan and the use of Sikagard 62 (a high-build, protective, solvent-free, epoxy coating) as a beam-end coating; both the treatment plan and the coating are applied at the precast plant prior to installation on the bridge. However, no physical testing of Sikagard 62 in this application has been completed. In addition, the Iowa DOT continues to see deterioration in the prestressed concrete beam ends, even those treated with Sikagard 62.
The goals of this project were to evaluate the performance of the Iowa DOT-specified beam-end treatment process as well as other concrete coating alternatives based on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) T259-80 chloride ion penetration test and to test their performance on in-service bridges throughout the duration of the project. In addition, alternative beam-end forming details were developed and evaluated for their potential to mitigate and/or eliminate the deterioration caused by corrosion of the prestressing strands on prestressed concrete beam ends used in bridges with expansion joints. The alternative beam-end details consisted of individual strand blockouts, an individual blockout for a cluster of strands, dual blockouts for two clusters of strands, and drilling out the strands after they are flush cut. The goal of all of the forming alternatives was to offset the ends of the prestressing strands from the end face of the beam and then cover them with a grout/concrete layer, thereby limiting or eliminating their exposure to moisture and chlorides.