A method for damage estimation of a bridge structure is presented using ambient vibration data caused by the traffic loadings. The procedure consists of identification of the operational modal properties and the assessment of damage locations and severities. An experimental study is carried out on a bridge model with a composite cross-section subjected to vehicle loadings. Vertical accelerations of the bridge deck are measured while vehicles are running. The modal parameters are identified from the free-decay signals extracted using the random decrement method. The damage assessment is carried out based on the estimated modal parameters using the neural networks technique. As input to the neural networks, the ratios of the resonant frequencies between before and after damages and the mode shapes after the damages are used to take into account the mass effect of the traffic on the bridge. The identified damage locations and severities agree reasonably well with the inflicted damages on the structure. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.