Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Robb Moss


Underground structures perform an important role in transportation systems in many seismically active regions around the world, but empirical data regarding the seismic behavior of these structures is limited. This research works towards filling that empirical gap through the use of scale model shake table testing. Underground seismic soil-structure interaction (USSSI) effects were investigated for a stiff rectangular tunnel cross-section embedded within soft clay. San Francisco Young Bay Mud was used as a prototype soil for developing a scale model soil mixture consisting of kaolinite, bentonite, class C fly ash, and water. A single cell Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cut-and-cover subway tunnel was used as the prototype for the 10th scale model subway cross-section. A flexible walled test container originally developed for a pile study at UC Berkeley was modified for use at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. The flexible container allows for close approximation of one-dimensional (1D) free-field site response by significantly limiting the rigidity of the boundary conditions and allowing the soil to deform under simple shear. The study was conducted over two shake table testing phases: Phase I consisted of shaking a model soil column to evaluate the ability of the test container to produce adequate 1D free-field site response, and Phase II tests explored the horizontal racking distortion of a shallow rectangular tunnel cross-section subjected to strong transverse ground shaking. Phase I test results and comparison with SHAKE models indicate that the test container can sufficiently mimic 1D free-field conditions, specifically for the primary shear deformation mode. Similarly, the equivalent linear soil-structure interaction code FLUSH was found to adequately model site response for the Phase II soil-structure system. Comparison of recorded horizontal racking distortions of the model structure with those from numerical modeling suggest that current simplified design methods may overestimate distortions to some degree for cases similar to those examined in this research. Overall, the flexible wall testing container shows promise as a viable means for gaining further insight into USSSI topics, as well as various other geotechnical and soil-structure interaction problems.