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A bridge is a structure that crosses over a
river, bay, or other obstruction, permitting
the smooth and safe passage of vehicles,
trains, and pedestrians. The first bridges
were made by nature itself as simple as a
log fallen across a stream or stones in
a river.
A bridge structure is divided into an upper part
(the superstructure), which consists of the slab, the
floor system, and the main truss or girders, and a
lower part (the substructure), which are columns,
piers, towers, footings, piles, and abutments. The
superstructure provides horizontal spans such as
deck and girders and carries traffic loads directly.
The substructure supports the horizontal spans,
elevating above the ground surface.
Steel bridges: A steel bridge may use a wide variety of
structural steel components and systems: girders, frames,
trusses, arches, and suspension cables.
Concrete bridges: There are two primary types of
concrete bridges: reinforced and prestressed.
Timber bridges: Wooden bridges are used when the span
is relatively short.
Metal alloy bridges: Metal alloys such as aluminum alloy
and stainless steel are also used in bridge construction.
Highway bridges: bridges on highways.
Railway bridges: bridges on railroads.
Combined bridges: bridges carrying vehicles and
Pedestrian bridges: bridges carrying pedestrian
Aqueduct bridges: bridges supporting pipes with
channeled waterflow

a) Simply supported bridges: The main girders or trusses are

supported by a movable hinge at one end and a fixed hinge at the
other (simple support); thus they can be analyzed using only the
conditions of equilibrium.
b) Continuously supported bridges: Girders or trusses are supported
continuously by more than three supports, resulting in a
structurally indeterminate system. These tend to be more
economical since fewer expansion joints, which have a common
cause of service and maintenance problems, are needed. Sinkage
at the supports must be avoided.
c) Gerber bridges (cantilever bridge): A continuous bridge is
rendered determinate by placing intermediate hinges between the
Primary loads exert constantly or continuously on the bridge:
Dead load: weight of the bridge.
Live load: vehicles, trains, or pedestrians, including the effect
of impact. A vehicular load is classified into three parts by the
truck axle load, a tandem load, and a uniformly distributed
lane load.
Other primary loads may be generated by prestressing forces,
the creep of concrete, the shrinkage of concrete, soil pressure,
water pressure, buoyancy, snow, and centrifugal actions or
Secondary loads occur at infrequent intervals.
Wind load: a typhoon or hurricane.
Earthquake load: especially critical in its effect
on the substructure.
Other secondary loads come about with changes
in temperature, acceleration, or temporary loads
during erection, collision forces, and so forth.
The main part of a steel bridge is made up of steel
plates which compose main girders or frames to
support a concrete deck.
Steel has higher strength, ductility, and toughness

than many other structural materials such as

concrete or wood, and thus makes an economical
design. However, steel must be painted to prevent
rusting and also stiffened to prevent a local
buckling of thin members and plates.
Gas flame cutting is generally used to cut steel plates to
designated dimensions. Fabrication by welding is
conducted in the shop where the bridge components are
prepared before being assembled (usually bolted) on
the construction site.
Welding is the most effective means of connecting steel
plates. The properties of steel change when heated and
this change is usually for the worse. Molten steel must
be shielded from the air to prevent oxidization.
Inspection of welding is an important task since an imperfect weld
may well have catastrophic consequences. It is difficult to find
faults such as an interior crack or a blow hole by observing only
the surface of a weld. Many nondestructive testing procedures are
available which use various devices, such as x-ray, ultrasonic
waves, color paint, or magnetic particles. These all have their own
advantages and disadvantages. For example, the x-ray and the
ultrasonic tests are suitable for interior faults but require
expensive equipment. Use of color paint or magnetic particles, on
the other hand, is a cheap alternative but only detects surface
flaws. The x-ray and ultrasonic tests are used in common bridge
construction, but ultrasonic testing is becoming increasingly
popular for both its high tech and its economical features.
Bolting does not require the skilled workmanship
needed for welding, and is thus a simpler alternative. It
is applied to the connections worked on construction
site. Some disadvantages, however, are incurred: (1)
splice plates are needed and the force transfer is
indirect; (2) screwing-in of the bolts creates noise; and
(3) aesthetically bolts are less appealing. In special
cases that need to avoid these disadvantages, the
welding may be used even for site connections.

Steel must be painted to protect it from rusting.

There is a wide variety of paints, and the life of a
steel structure is largely influenced by its quality.
In areas near the sea, the salty air is particularly
harmful to exposed steel. The cost of painting is
high but is essential to the continued good
condition of the bridge. The color of the paint is
also an important consideration in terms of its
public appeal or aesthetic quality.
For modern bridges, both structural concrete and steel
give satisfactory performance. The choice between the
two materials depends mainly upon the cost of
construction and maintenance. Generally, concrete
structures require less maintenance than steel
structures, but since the relative cost of steel and
concrete is different from country to country, and may
even vary throughout different parts of the same
country, it is impossible to put one definitively above
the other in terms of economy.

A reinforced concrete slab is the most economical
bridge superstructure for spans of up to
approximately 12.2 m. The slab has simple details
and standard formwork and is neat, simple, and
pleasing in appearance. Common spans range from
4.9 to 13.4 m with structural depth-to-span ratios of
0.06 for simple spans and 0.045 for continuous spans.
The T-beams are generally economic for spans of
12.2 to 18.3m, but do require complicated
formwork, particularly for skewed bridges.
Structural depth-to-span ratios are 0.07 for simple
spans and 0.065 for continuous spans. The spacing
of girders in a T-beam bridge depends on the overall
width of the bridge, the slab thickness, on the cost
of the formwork and may be taken as 1.5 times the
structural depth. The most commonly used spacings
are between 6 and 10 ft (1.8 to 3.1 m).
Cast-in-Place Box Girder
Box girders , are often used for spans of 15.2 to 36.6 m. Its
formwork for skewed structures is simpler than that
required for the T-beam. Due to excessive dead load
deflections, the use of reinforced concrete box girders over
simple spans of 30.5 m or more may not be economical.
The depth-to-span ratios are typically 0.06 for simple spans
and 0.055 for continuous spans with the girders spaced at
1.5 times the structural depth. The high torsional resistance
of the box girder makes it particularly suitable for curved
alignments, such as the ramps onto freeways. Its smooth
flowing lines are appealing in metropolitan cities.
A truss bridge is a bridge whose load bearing
superstructure is composed of a truss, a structure of
connected elements forming triangular units. The floor slab,
which carries the live load, is supported by the floor system
of stringers and cross beams. The load is transmitted to the
main trusses at nodal connections, one on each side of the
bridge, through the floor system and finally to the bearings.
Lateral braces, which also are a truss frame, are attached to
the upper and lower chords to resist horizontal forces such
as wind and earthquake loads as well as torsional moments.
A truss is composed of upper and lower chords, joined
by diagonal and vertical members (web members). This
frame action corresponds to beam action in that the
upper and lower chords perform like flanges and the
diagonal braces behave in much the same way as the
web plate. The chords are mainly in charge of bending
moment while the web members take the shear force.
Trusses are an assembly of bars, not plates, and thus
are comparatively easier to erect on site and are often
the choice for long bridges.
The truss is a framed structure of bars, theoretically
connected by hinges, forming stable triangles. Trusses
contain triangle framed units to keep it stable. Its members
are assumed to resist only tensile or compressive axial
forces. In practice, truss members are connected to gusset
plates with high-tension not rotation-free hinges, simply
because these are much easier to fabricate. This
discrepancy results in secondary stresses (bending
stresses) in the members. Secondary stresses are usually
found to be less than 20% of the primary (axial) stresses. If
the truss members are properly designed,the slenderness
ratios of the truss bars are sufficiently large with no
buckling, then secondary stresses can conveniently and
reliably be disregarded.
The members are rigidly connected in rahmen
structures or rigid frames. Unlike the truss and the
arch bridges, all the members are subjected to both
an axial force and bending moments. The members
of a rigid frame bridge are much larger than those in
a typical building. Consequently, stress
concentrations occur at the junctions of beams and
columns which must be carefully designed using
finite element analyses or experimental verification.
An arch rib acts like a circular beam restrained not only
vertically but also horizontally at both ends, and thus
results in vertical and horizontal reactions at the supports.
The horizontal reaction causes axial compression in
addition to bending moments in the arch rib. The bending
moments caused by the horizontal force balances those
due to gravity loads. Compared with the axial force, the
effect of the bending moment is usually small. That is
why the arch is often made of materials that have high
compressive strength, such as concrete, stone, or brick.
A cable-stayed bridge hangs the girders from diagonal cables that are
tensioned from the tower. The cables of cable-stayed bridges are
anchored in the girders. The girders are most often supported by
movable or fixed hinges. Due to the diagonally tensioned cables, axial
forces and bending moments are imposed on the girder and the tower.
The bending moment in the girder is reduced when supported by the
cables, and spans can be longer than conventional girder bridges (as long
as 300 to 500 m) For long-span bridges, stability under strong wind
currents should be carefully considered in the design. The dynamic
effects of wind and earthquakes must be studied analytically and
experimentally. Wind tunnel tests may be necessary to ensure excessive
oscillation does not occur along the length of the bridge or in the tower.
One of the important aspects in the design of a cable-stayed
bridge is the determination of the tension force in the cable,
which is directly related to forces in the tower and the
girder. Control on the tension force in the cables is critical.
The pre-tension of the cables must be known because it
changes the stresses in the girder and the tower. Figure
10.52 shows the bending moment distribution under dead
loads along the bridge before and after the prestressing
force is applied. It can be seen that the proper prestress
reduces bending moments in the girder significantly.
Suspension bridges use two main cables suspended between
two towers and anchored to blocks at the ends. Stiffening
girders are either truss or box type and hung from the main
cables using hangers. The suspension bridge is most suitable
for long spans. The load on the girder is transmitted to the
towers through the hangers and the main cables, and then to
the anchor blocks. The gravity of the anchor blocks resists the
upward component of the cable tension force, and the shear
force between the anchor blocks and the foundation resists
the horizontal component. Construction difficulty may arise
where soil conditions are poor.
For the cable, the high-strength steel wire, i.e.,
usually 5mm in diameter with a strength of 160 to
180 kg/mm2 (1760 N/mm2) and zinc-galvanized,
is used. The sag in the main cable affects the
structural behavior of the suspension bridge: the
smaller the sag, the larger the stiffness of the
bridge and thereby large horizontal forces are
applied to anchor blocks. In general the ratio of the
sag to the main span is selected to be about 1:10.
The tower is designed to be subjected to large
axial compression and bending moment. It is
designed to have smaller bending stiffness in the
longitudinal direction since the horizontal forces
coming from both sides of the tower keep it

Suspension bridges are so flexible that the dynamic

stability under wind effects should be investigated
using a wind tunnel. The dynamic responses may
be categorized into three types, of which response
behaviors are shown in Figure 10.61:
1. vortex-induced oscillations,
2. buffeting
3. torsional flutters.
CI DE COMUNICAII: PODURI elemente generale-
Ionu Radu Rcnel
Bridge Structures-Shouji Toma Department of
Civil Engineering, Hokkai-Gakuen University, Sapporo,
Japan; Lian Duan Division of Structures, California
Department of Transportation, Sacramento,CA;Wai-Fah
Chen School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University,
West Lafayette, IN