Determining Transfer Length in Pre-Tensioned Concrete Railroad Ties: Is a New Evaluation Method Needed?


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The transfer length is perhaps the most significant KEY indicator of the bond quality between reinforcing wire/strand and concrete, and its measurement in pre-tensioned concrete railroad ties can enable concrete tie producers to identify problem ties before they are put into service. The 95% AMS method is the traditional method used to determine the transfer length from measurements of surface strain. The method generally presumes the underlying existence of a bilinear strain profile. During recent field trips to six concrete railroad tie plants, we conducted hundreds of transfer length measurements on concrete railroad cross-ties using a newly developed automated Laser Speckle Imaging device. It has been observed that many of the strain profiles depart significantly from this underlying bilinear profile, and bring to question the general validity and applicability of the 95% AMS (95% Average Maximum Strain) method. This paper discusses the difficulties with accurate determination of transfer length in various practical situations using the traditional 95% AMS method. Deviations of the strain profiles from the simple bilinear shape are shown to be partially due to the non-prismatic shape of typical concrete railroad ties. In addition, computational evidence suggests that the underlying strain distribution may be exponential in nature, with an asymptotic approach to the fully-developed compressive strain, potentially superimposed on the non-prismatic problem identified above. These departures are discussed along with proposed solutions to the basic problem of accurate transfer length assessment.