Bridge expansion joints are designed to accommodate bridge movement and rotation as well as to protect the bridge superstructure and substructure elements such as beam/girder ends, piers, abutments, pedestals, and bearings from runoff water and deicing chemicals. Proper performance of bridge expansion joints has a significant impact on the service life of multiple bridge elements, and therefore, the long-term serviceability of the bridge. The origins of many extensive bridge rehabilitations and even replacement projects can be traced back to the condition of expansion joints. Therefore, bridge owners invest significant resources toward the design, construction, and maintenance of bridge expansion joints. Nonetheless, the performance of bridge joints has been problematic for bridge owners across the country. Improper sizing of the joint seal, poor substrate preparation, and improper application have been cited as some of the reasons for joint failures. To overcome these failure mechanisms, bridge owners need clear guidelines for evaluating the performance of bridge expansion joints and maintaining them.
The objective of this research was to develop proposed guidelines with commentary for evaluating and maintaining small movement bridge joints (i.e., 4 in. or less) to support the decisions of bridge owners. The proposed guidelines with commentary should cover as a minimum: (1) joint failure mechanisms; (2) performance metrics (e.g., service life and life cycle costs (LCC)) to select the best performing joints considering bridge geometry, environmental loading, and other factors; and (3) procedures for maintenance, repair, and replacement of bridge joints.