Diverse modeling techniques, parameters, and assumptions for nonlinear dynamic analysis of typical concrete bridges with different pier-to-deck connections: which to use and why

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Key questions to researchers interested in nonlinear analysis of skeletal structures are whether the distributed plasticity approach - albeit computationally demanding - is more reliable than the concentrated plasticity to adequately capture the extent and severity of the inelastic response, and whether force-based formulation is more efficient than displacement-based formulation without compromising accuracy. The present research focusing on performance-based seismic response of mid-span concrete bridges provides a pilot holistic investigation opting for some hands-on answers. OpenSees software is considered adopting different modeling techniques, viz. distributed plasticity (through either displacement-based or force-based elements) and concentrated plasticity via beam-with-hinges elements. The pros and cons of each are discussed based on nonlinear pushover analysis results, and fragility curves generated for various performance levels relying on incremental dynamic analyses under real earthquake records. Among prime conclusions, distributed plasticity modeling albeit inherently not relying on prior knowledge of plastic hinge length still somewhat depends on such information to ensure accurate results. For instance, displacement-based and force-based approaches secure optimal accuracy when dividing, for the former, the member into sub-elements, and satisfying, for the latter, a distance between any two consecutive integration points, close to the expected plastic hinge length. On the other hand, using beam-with-hinges elements is computationally more efficient relative to the distributed plasticity, yet with acceptable accuracy provided the user has prior reasonable estimate of the anticipated plastic hinge length. Furthermore, when intrusive performance levels (viz. life safety or collapse) are of concern, concentrated plasticity via beam-with-hinges ensures conservative predicted capacity of investigated bridge systems.