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What is the effect of shear lag in a typical box-girder bridge?

For multiple-cell box girders, there are generally two arrangements. The first one is that independent cells are connected by their top flanges only while the other one is that the cells are connected both at the top and bottom flanges. From the structural point of view, it is recommended to adopt the second arrangement. For the case of cells connected by top flanges only, their flanges are heavily stressed in the transverse direction owing to flexure which cannot be effectively distributed across the cross section.

In the structural analysis of bridges, shear lag have to be considered in design in some circumstances. Shear lag takes place when some parts of the cross section are not directly connected. For a box-girder bridge, not all parts of flanges are joined directly to webs so that the connected part becomes highly stressed while the unconnected flanges are not fully stressed. In particular, for wide flanges of box-girder bridges axial loads are transferred by shear from webs to flanges which result in the distortion in their planes. Consequently, the plane sections do not stay plane and the stress distribution in the flanges are not uniform. Moreover, there is a tendency for longitudinal in-plane displacements of bride deck away from the flange/web connection to lag behind those parts of the bridge in close vicinity to the flange/web connection.


The effect of shear lag causes the longitudinal stress at flange/web connection to be higher than the mean stress across the flange. Therefore, the effect of shear lag has to be catered for in the design of box-girder bridges, especially for those with wide flanges.

This question is taken from book named – A Self Learning Manual – Mastering Different Fields of Civil Engineering Works (VC-Q-A-Method) by Vincent T. H. CHU.

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Kanwarjot Singh

Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.

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