This paper summarizes the results of a comparative study on seismic design of highway bridges jointly undertaken by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and Japan's Public Works Research Institute. The seismic design specifications for highway bridges of the two countries are reviewed and compared with respect to their design philosophies and procedures. Some major design parameters including design seismic forces, response modification factors and minimum support lengths are addressed in detail. The differences between the two specifications are illustrated via a design example of a reinforced concrete column for simple, two-span bridges common in both countries. Three different scale models of the column are designed in accordance with the seismic design specifications of the United States and Japan, and tested on a shake table for their comparative seismic performance. The results of the shake table tests are discussed separately in a companion paper.
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