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CIVL 432



Bridge Design

based on a publication by

J.K. Ritchie, Consultant, Canadian Institute of Steel Construction,

P. Wells, Chief Design Engineer, Canron Inc, Eastern Structural Division,
A.F. Wong, Manager, Engineering Services, Project Analysis Division, Canadian Steel
Construction Council

primary considerations:
aesthetics and
compromise: pure technical solution - most cost effective solution
least weight = least cost?
other considerations in:
shipping, and
erection and
effective use of material locally
depend largely on fabricators

Basic Economic Factors

complexity of details;
quality control requirements;
amount of welding, including grinding, type and amount of
inspection, etc.;
the amount of repetition and reuse of assembly jigs;
size and number of individual pieces to be fabricated;
other demands on shop space, particularly when large box girders
are involved;
the access for erection; and
number of girder field splices.

432_bridge_design_summary.doc 1/19/2006

Atmospheric Corrosion Resistant steel (C.S.A. G40.21 Grades 350A

and 350AT)
Painted steels

other factors
premium (about 4%) on plates longer than 18 metres;
plates less than 9mm thick and more than 25 mm thick attract a
premium of from 4% to 8%;
extras to meet mandatory impacts plus Charpy testing (at the mill)
will cost approximately 2% for categories I & 2 and 5% for
Category 3 on a per heat
small orders also incur mill extras and small quantities of any one
plate thickness should be avoided.

Proportioning of Spans:
End spans of a continuous steel = 75% of the length of the main span;
permits balancing of dead and live load moments,
reduces the potential for uplift at the abutments, and
permits the most economical design when proportioning the girder.

Girder Spacing
225 mm concrete deck slab almost universal in Canada
web spacing in the range of 3 to 3.75 metres = full utilization of the
concrete slab and
minimize the number of webs required in the steel design
wider spacing is possible with a nominal increase in slab thickness
very wide web spacing, with large edge cantilevers is possible with
transverse stressing on the slab



original concept for a bridge used 6 steel or concrete girders spaced at

2.15 metre centres; PCI Type 5 girders, steel was found to be
uneconomical in this configuration.
4 girders at 3.5 metre centres, steel alternative more economical

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CIVL 432


3 girders at 4.475 metre centres, tapering the end span web depths
(because of the short spans) from an abutment depth of 1140 mm to a
pier depth of 1 780 mm, and increasing the slab thickness to 280 mm =
the most economical
Economy further enhanced by planning to use the material trimmed in
tapering the webs as web stiffener material.

Selection of a Girder Cross-Section

compositely designed continuous spans:
main span to girder depth ratio of about 28 for box girders and 26 for
I girders.
no pedestrians:
main span to girder depth ratio of about over 30


maximum length of mill material available for the thickness and depth
of web being considered
avoid grinding or
use only nominal grinding to touch up the profile of full penetration
butt welds in the web
use the submerged arc process.
maintain a constant thickness of web throughout the girder,
varying the spacing of intermediate transverse stiffeners according to
the shear diagram and possibly
eliminating transverse stiffeners in areas of low shear.

Web Stiffeners
trapezoidal box girders with webs sloped up to 1 in 4:
reduces the width of the bottom flange (tension zones)
enhances aesthetics of the bridge

cross-frames boxes may be attached to short connection tabs which do not

interfere with the longitudinal stiffeners

when end spans are much shorter than centre spans, tapering can be

Web Design

trend away from the use of a large number of transverse web stiffeners,
because of cost
in girders 1 500 to 2 000 mm deep, a web stiffener can be considered to
cost about $100
web material at the raw material price of say $800-$850/tonne
economic advantage in using an unstiffened 1 200 mm girder
avoid double sided web stiffeners

Web Splices
changes in web thickness = coincide with either
a field splice or

other advantages:
1. A proper load path is provided for any cross-frame loads, reducing
local bending stresses in the web and eliminating the potential for
fatigue distress in the web at the toe of the stiffener;
2. All stiffeners could be welded consistently - sometimes stiffeners which
should be fitted get welded by mistake, and repair to a fitted condition
is awkward;
3. Stiffeners may have a fitted condition when first installed, only to have
a gap open up during subsequent handling of the girder in the shop and
field, particularly if there are fitted plates only on one side of the web.
If the stiffeners had been welded in the first place this problem and the
repair (by means of heating the web) could be avoided.

432_bridge_design_summary.doc 1/19/2006

welded to the top flange and

held back 4w to 6w from the bottom flange
corner clipped at the bottom to allow access for automatic welding of
the web to the flange
fitted condition can be achieved by fillet-welding a short plate to the
stiffener, fitted to the bottom flange (only called for on compression
stiffeners welded to the top flanges throughout do not alter the fatigue
category of the flange (already Category C because of the studs)

avoid oil canning effect by using intermittent welding to web

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CIVL 432

welds not to be returned around the ends of stiffeners

bearing stiffeners:
milled or sawn square at the bottom
used to keep the flange true at the bearing and to
transfer forces from the webs through the bottom flange and into the
fillet welds to the bottom flange

Flange Transitions

economical to change from one flange size to another as the stresses

the cost of each splice is made up of material preparation, fitting up,
welding, gouging, grinding, inspection and possibly repairs, and so can
involve a considerable number of man-hours
in I girders and the top flanges of box girders, either maintain the
same width of flange, maintain the same thickness of flange or change
both flange width and flange thickness
change in thickness should be made at a slope of l in 2
a less steep bevel would not result in a lower fatigue category but
would probably require a more expensive machining operation in the

Grinding of Butt Welds

grinding of butt welds specified are often unnecessarily without an

appreciation of the cost implications
understand the difference between the terms flush and smooth
flush is defined as a profile where there is a smooth gradual transition
between the weld reinforcement and parent metal and the amount of
reinforcement does not exceed 1 mm
Smooth is a profile where the weld reinforcement blends gradually
into the surrounding plate, with no undercut or overlap, and
reinforcement does not exceed 2 mm on a 50 mm plate or 3 mm for
thicker plates
Fatigue Category B can be achieved by specifying a flush finish
Category C would be appropriate for the smooth finish with most of
the reinforcement left intact

432_bridge_design_summary.doc 1/19/2006


grinding is expensive and carried out improperly can be detrimental to

the fatigue life of the structure

Fatigue Details

flanges with welded shear studs and a web with welded transverse
stiffeners both fall in Category C
grinding is expensive and carried out improperly can be detrimental to
the fatigue life of the structure
when grinding flush there is a tendency to grind into the plate on both
sides of the weld, resulting in a local reduction below specified
thickness. W59 recognizes this fact and gives an allowance of 1 mm for
this under-grinding
radiograph each tension flange butt weld;
radiograph compression flange butt splices randomly (from 10% to
radiograph butt splices in webs in critical tensile areas only (e.g. 20%
of the web adjacent to a tension flange).

Other Fatigue Details

greatest concern with details is
corrosion (mainly due to chloride mn-off) and
fatigue failure
use similar criteria for all of the details associated with a primary
member, such as a flange, to achieve balanced design and fabrication
use radius at the end of the gusset to
eliminate a sharp notch,
reduce stiffness at the tip and
minimize longitudinal stresses at the tip of the attachment.
fatigue cracks often initiate at the end of the weld, for longitudinal welds
only, or at the toe of the weld return

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CIVL 432

Field splices

gap between girder ends should be made large enough to accommodate

normal shop tolerances, use at least 10 mm
welded field splices only because of aesthetics


In relatively short span steel I girder bridges, up to approximately 45 or

50 metres, wind loads can be transferred via the deck diaphragm down
to the bearings through pier and abutment diaphragms between girders,
eliminating the need for bracing in the plane of the flanges in the
completed structure
In larger span I-girder bridges a bottom lateral system is needed
In curved bridges, closer spacing of cross-frames depending on the
radius of curvature, as well as a top lateral system in box girders and
both a top and bottom lateral system in I-girders are needed
trapezoidal box girder bridges have been built without a top lateral
system in the plane of the top flanges and with no external cross-frames
except those occurring at intermediate piers and abutments
over 50 metres it is recommended that one girder in each bridge
structure have a continuous line of top lateral bracing
For box girder bridges spanning less than 50 metres: no top lateral
cross-frames between girders may be required for the service condition,
depending to a large extent on the slab design.
frames will also prevent the girders from twisting due to eccentric
construction loads from mechanized slab finishing equipment and wind
loads during construction
girder bottom flange, acting together with the deck diaphragm has
enough lateral bending strength to transfer lateral loads to the bearings.
use common size such as 102x102x9.5, cut square and weld to one side
of the gusset to eliminate the need to turn the frames over during
provide oversize holes in the connection plates will help with fit-up of
field installed cross frames (i.e. in I-girder bridges, and between box
girders) bearing in mind that adjacent girder cambers may be high or
low but within the prescribed tolerances.

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haunched girders have been found uneconomical because of

transportation of the deep pier girder segments or the
consideration of launching as a means of erecting the bridge, in which
case a horizontal soffit would be essential.

Design Information for the Fabricator

full camber information with the dead load and vertical curve effects
separated is needed to calculate the shape of the web plates, defined by
points every 1-2 metres around the perimeter of the plate
clearly identify the plates, stiffeners and splice plates which need
Charpy impact testing at the mill, which components, if any, are
fracture critical and which therefore may need special testing,
fabrication and repair requirements.
splices and connections for bridges are usually fully detailed on the
engineering drawings
provide a chart showing the theoretical bearing movement related to
installation temperature, translational capacity of the bearing should
make allowance for normal fabrication tolerances on girder length,
referred to in the previous section

Fabrication Procedures
steps followed in fabricating an open topped box-girder (no need to turn it
for welding):
plate coming into the shop is blast cleaned to get rid of mill- scale and
to prepare a clean surface for subsequent burning and welding
plates of the required thicknesses for flanges and webs are prepared,
fitted, and butt-welded together using the submerged-arc process. At
this stage top-flanges are normally bought in multiples of the final
width for economy in splicing, as noted earlier
web plates are cut to a profile with offsets calculated from the dead
load camber and vertical curve (if any) making allowance for the
change of shape caused by welding shrinkage
top flanges are fitted to the web plates in a jig, with the web laying flat
and tack welded. Using the submerged-arc process the web to flange
weld is made on one side, the assembly turned over in the jig, and then
the other side welded.

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CIVL 432

first weld will pull the flange more than the second, therefore flange to
web angle must be preset
web stiffeners are fitted tight to the top flange and (usually) welded to
the web using automatic flux-cored welding
girder bottom flange is dropped in jig which supports it to the required
cambered profile. Then the two web/top-flange assemblies are fitted to
it and tack welded
welding of the webs to bottom flange is done next using submergedarc, welding on the inside fillet and usually flux-cored welding on the
outside fillet
bearing diaphragms are assembled complete with bearing stiffeners,
jacking stiffeners and flanges outside the girder and the whole unit is
milled along the bottom edge to give full bearing on the bottom flange.
Internal cross-frames may also be pre-assembled outside the boxes
diaphragms and internal cross-frames are then fitted inside each girder
and welded
check of the camber of the girder would be made next, with the girder
supported at the two ends. If the girder is outside the prescribed
tolerances it may be possible to correct it during stud-welding which
some shrinkage of the top flange is expected from the input of heat
during the stud welding process
correct the camber, use heat-shrinking procedures
flanges, which are usually fabricated slightly long, are trimmed flush
with the end of the web plate
girders are then be placed end to end, to the same profile as in the
finished bridge, so that the field-splices can be drilled using the predrilled splice plates as templates.
if NC (Numerically Controlled) drilling the splice plates are used,
bushed templates for drilling flanges and webs of individual girder
segments without the matching girder are applied

Fabrication Tolerances

tolerances are defined in W59, Clauses 5.8 and 5.9,

formula (6+114000) gives the camber tolerance (i.e. 13 mm on a 28
metre girder section)
tolerances in the individual pieces that make up a continuous span will
be additive

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Size Constraints

size of pieces being fabricated and shipped is steadily getting bigger

and heavier
general guide the maximum piece-weight for handling in the shop is of
the order of 50 tonnes
optimum length for the shop is about 27 metres, although trusses of 4050 metres have been handled
maximum overall height and width for a box girder are about 3.5 and
5.0 metres respectively, assuming that it can be fabricated without
being turned over, when headroom under the crane may be a problem
shipping clearances, site access and site cranage are other factors

Launching of Bridges

erection of structures by means of launching is becoming more popular

temporary conditions to be considered:

negative bending in the positive moment region including an
assessment of web stability;
concentrated stresses on the web at the web to bottom flange junction,
i.e., a check on local web crippling or buckling, and flange to web
welds as the section crosses the launch rollers;
tip deflection of the lead girder, including sizing and tapering of the
launch nose, which may be 10 metres to 20 metres in length;
stability of the cantilever as the launched girder approaches the next
support location; and.
effect of girder camber on deflection and stress calculations.
cantilever tip deflections of about I to 3 metres, depending on girder
proportions and length of span.
use launching nose

provide a flat soffit on the girder

.any flange transitions will be cut into the web rather than protruding
below the adjacent flange
some care must also be taken in designing flange splice plates at field
bolted splices so that the outside splice plate does not interfere with the
launch rollers.

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