The influence of vertical ground motions on the seismic response of highway bridges is not very well understood. Recent studies suggest that vertical ground motions can substantially increase force and moment demands on bridge columns and girders and cannot be overlooked in seismic design of bridge structures. For an evaluation of vertical ground motion effects on the response of single-bent two-span highway bridges, a systematic study combining the critical engineering demand parameters (EDPs) and ground motion intensity measures (IMs) is required. Results of a parametric study examining a range of highway bridge configurations subjected to selected sets of horizontal and vertical ground motions are used to determine the structural parameters that are significantly amplified by the vertical excitations. The amplification in these parameters is modeled using simple equations that are functions of horizontal and vertical spectral accelerations at the corresponding horizontal and vertical fundamental periods of the bridge. This paper describes the derivation of seismic demand models developed for typical highway overcrossings by incorporating critical EDPs and combined effects of horizontal and vertical ground motion IMs depending on the type of the parameter and the period of the structure. These models may be used individually as risk-based design tools to determine the probability of exceeding the critical levels of EDP for pre-determined levels of ground shaking or may be included explicitly in probabilistic seismic risk assessments. Copyright (c) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.