The development of low-cost wireless sensor networks has resulted in resurgence in the development of ambient vibration monitoring methods to assess the in-service condition of highway bridges. However, a reliable approach towards assessing the health of an in-service bridge and identifying and localizing damage without a priori knowledge of the vibration response history has yet to be formulated. A two-part study is in progress to evaluate and develop existing and proposed damage detection schemes. The first phase utilizes a laboratory bridge model to investigate the vibration response characteristics induced through introduction of changes to structural members, connections, and support conditions. A second phase of the study will validate the damage detection methods developed from the laboratory testing with progressive damage testing of an in-service highway bridge scheduled for replacement. The laboratory bridge features a four meter span, one meter wide, steel frame with a steel and cement board deck composed of sheet layers to regulate mass loading and simulate deck wear. Bolted connections and elastomeric bearings provide a means for prescribing variable local stiffness and damping effects to the laboratory model. A wireless sensor network consisting of fifty-six accelerometers accommodated by twenty-eight local nodes facilitates simultaneous, real-time and high-rate acquisition of the vibrations throughout the bridge structure. Measurement redundancy is provided by an array of wired linear displacement sensors as well as a scanning laser vibrometer. This paper presents the laboratory model and damage scenarios, a brief description of the developed wireless sensor network platform, an overview of available test and measurement instrumentation within the laboratory, and baseline measurements of dynamic response of the laboratory bridge model.
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