Bridges and Spans
In 1979, during a routine bridge inspection, a fatigue crack was discovered in the top flange plate of one tie girder in a tied arch bridge crossing the Mississippi River. Metallographic analysis indicated a banding or segregation problem in the middle of the plate, where the carbon content was twice what it should have been. Based on this and results of ultrasonic testing, which revealed that the banding occurred in 24-ft lengths, it was decided to close the bridge and replace the defective steel. The steel used in the construction of this bridge was specified as ASTM A441, commonly used in structural applications. Testing showed an increase in hardness and weight percent carbon and manganese in the banded region. Further testing revealed that the area containing the segregation and coarse grain structure had a lower than expected toughness and a transition temperature 90 deg F higher than specified by the ASTM standards. The fatigue crack growth rate through this area was much faster than expected. All of these property changes resulted from increased carbon levels, higher yield strength, and larger than normal grain size.