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Have you ever driven over a bridge and wondered how old it was? In the United States alone there are more than 617,000 bridges, 12% of which are aged 80 years or older. But were all those bridges created at the same time or with the same method? What exactly is the typical lifespan of a bridge? And how many bridges are considered structurally deficient?

Contributing Elements to a Bridge’s Lifespan

Nowadays, bridges have become a natural part of everyday life. Your daily commute may even consist of traveling through a bridge or maybe two. Since they are vital to our economy and public safety, the government periodically mandates national bridge inspections to determine structurally deficient bridges.

Ultimately, there is no one number that fits the lifespan of all bridges across America. Each bridge has its own expected lifecycle but there are ways to estimate its lifespan. Generally, it’s believed that bridges are expected to function for 50-70 years however this is often not the case. Currently, only 42% of all bridges in the United States are at least 50 years old.

The lifespan of a bridge differs according to its design, construction, and location. Each component contributes either positively or negatively to the overall lifespan and structure of a bridge.

Materials

One of the most obvious factors that contribute to the lifespan and eventual structural deficits of a bridge is the material. In fact, both the concrete industry and the steel industry claim several advantages above the other for the Life Cycle Costs of a bridge.

Steel

Steel is a popular construction material due to its flexible and durable nature. The great thing about steel is that it is recyclable and still maintains its initial strength and integrity. Galvanized steel is even more durable plus it requires less upkeep.

Structural steel is a high-quality material that is readily available worldwide in certified grades and produced in various shapes and sizes. Currently, it is estimated that steel bridges have a lifespan of over 100 years. However, this number rapidly decreases as the bridge erodes or even with poor construction quality.

The deterioration of a bridge is created by a combination of several elements, for steel, it is often caused by corrosion, fatigue, stress corrosion, and damage from accidents.

Concrete

Another commonly utilized material is concrete. Concrete bridges are estimated to have a lifespan of over 100 years, again this number changes with daily wear and tear.

The causes of concrete deterioration are typically cracking, spalling, scaling, corrosion, and damage from accidents. In addition, cracks over reinforced steel allow water and chemicals to penetrate accelerating rusting which exerts great forces that pop the concrete.

Not to mention, extreme weather conditions, the presence of chlorides in de-icing salts, and cycles of freeze and thaw all contribute to the erosion of a bridge and its lifespan.

Timber

Timber, which is used for short-span and rural areas or pedestrian bridges is estimated to last only 20–30 years. This could be due to several reasons such as many engineers are less familiar with this material than their counterparts, or because there are fewer treatment options available for timber.

Nevertheless, the accurate range of which timber lasts is uncertain as there are very few data that exist that are based on actual performance data.

However, that doesn’t make timber a poor option. Timber is a lightweight material compared to concrete but still strong. This advantage plus low maintenance and repair costs make timber ideal in certain situations.

Plus studies suggest that timber is a durable option in highway bridge superstructures and that it can perform well for more than 70 years when properly pressure-treated with preservatives.

Location

The location of a bridge plays an instrumental part in its overall structural deficiency. Depending on the environment, it could accelerate the deterioration of the bridge.

Recently, there has been a slightly positive trend in addressing the maintenance of structurally deficient bridges. However, progress is not universal because states face different challenges when it comes to maintaining, repairing, and replacing bridges.

Urban

When it comes to urban locations, the major factor to watch out for is a higher traffic volume. The combination of a heavier load and volume further leads to the wear of the bridge. There are various ways for builders to slow this process down such as galvanization and other special treatments.

Rural

Unlike urban settings, rural bridges don’t have such a large volume of traffic. Unfortunately, it is because of this that rural bridges are typically not designed to withstand the growing numbers and weight of traffic and freight trucks. In actuality, rural bridges and transportation play a key role in our economy’s success and for rural communities.

However, more and more bridges in rural communities are experiencing rapid deterioration without the proper care and maintenance to last.

Coastal

Bridges that are located in coastal environments face unique challenges due to their location. Bridges in marine environments often experience corrosion-induced damage due to high sea salt and humidity. In addition, strength loss in the splash and the tidal zone is more common and significant than in the atmospheric zone.

An example of the distinct problems faced by coastal bridges is illustrated by the Morandi Bridge in Italy. In 2018, this cable-stayed bridge suddenly collapsed causing the death of 43 individuals. The collapse was reported as the fault of a weakened cable that deteriorated from corrosion. The degradation was caused by atmospheric agents and the proximity of the marine environment eroded the structure and integrity of the bridge.

Structural Deficient Bridges in America

Structurally deficient bridges are those that are in need of repair or maintenance due to the deterioration incurred throughout the bridge’s lifetime. Recently, 7.5% of highway bridges were designated structurally deficient. This is a striking improvement from the previous 12% record. In addition, the average age of America’s bridges is increasing to 44 years.

The plan is that the overall lifespan of a bridge should increase over time as more techniques, treatments, and designs are discovered in the future.

Build a Bridge that will Last Lifetimes with U.S. Bridge

Are you looking for an experienced industry leader company to assist with your building projects? Here at U.S. Bridge, we’ve built for different projects all across the globe; and we know that choosing the right material for your bridge takes a combination of experience, expertise, and skill.

To learn more about our bridge engineering and manufacturing, contact us for a quote or to answer any questions. Or start building your scope and bridge with our new interactive tool the Bridge Scope.

Bridges play a key role in our lives by connecting our communities, promoting commerce travels, and contributing to our country’s economic development. But who designs these bridges and what does a bridge engineer do?

Bridge Engineers

Bridge Engineers are civil engineers responsible for designing and building bridges and other highway-related structures. Typical tasks for bridge engineers include designing and maintaining bridge structures, minimizing environmental impact, and supervising the fabrication process. As well as completing site investigations, data collection, identifying environmental risks, analyzing manufacturing processes, supervising construction, and more.

Although the exact duties of a bridge engineer may differ, it’s safe to say they’ll always play a critical role in any bridge construction project.

Designing and maintaining a bridge is no easy task. That’s why bridge engineers are required to have skills such as analytical thinking, leadership, supervisory skills, organization, and creativity. Not to mention, time management and budgeting skills which are essential for projects with restricted time or resources.

Bridge Engineering: It’s All About The Details

Meetings & Details

Naturally, the first part of any construction project is understanding the full scope. This meeting typically covers topics and details such as bridge series and styles, special enhancements or treatments, railing criteria, etc. This will help the bridge engineer to draw up some preliminary sketches of the bridge’s general framing plan, bridge geometry, and basic construction.

These designs help illustrate the bridge and prepare the project for its next step.

Digital Renderings

One of the most powerful tools for bridge engineers to utilize is technology. Bridge engineers will often use computers to create virtual models to assist in visualizing a project. This helps the team picture the visual impacts of the bridge to any given site as well as the aesthetic qualities. Our bridge engineers are able to model your proposed bridge over a digital terrain model or incorporate it into photos of your existing site.

This aspect is extremely useful, especially if a construction project requires models to help stakeholders buy-in or make a sale.

Final Process

Once a commitment has been made, the design process officially begins and a team is assigned. The project engineer analyzes the proposed bridge including the specified design loads and appropriate load factors, along with applying numerous code checks. Eventually, the bridge engineer begins to sketch the design details and information for the designer. These sketches convey all the information previously discussed and finalized.

The engineer will also markup the general notes and list the design assumptions and pertinent bridge data onto the title sheet.

Part of this process involves reviewing the design calculations and construction plans to verify the scope and specifications. Also checked is the plan content to ensure it reflects the engineer’s design intent and that no conflicts exist and that no omissions have occurred. The final step before submittal is usually the application of the Professional Engineer’s seal and signature.

Designed for Success at U.S. Bridge

At U.S. Bridge, we’ve been engineering and building bridges for over 80 years. Our engineers have the skills and experience to build bridges in many different styles and sizes to fit the needs of your project. Find out more about how U.S. Bridge has everything you need to make your project a success.

Contact us for a free quote or check our exclusive Bridge Scope tool to start building your project today.

Bridge construction games are a great way for individuals to practice engineering skills and also encourage children to critically think. Right now there are many construction games from designing a bridge to destroying a town, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

Here are a few digital bridge construction games that our team recommends!

Digital Bridge Construction Games

Build a Bridge

This free phone game challenges players to build bridges in different scenarios. Like in real construction, every material and part costs in-game money. Additionally, players have to consider elements such as the angle of the road, structure support, and bridge purpose. Although this game encourages critical thinking and creativity, it isn’t very realistic as some scenarios presented are unlikely construction plans. However, for a digital construction app, this game does a fun job at encouraging players to think like an engineer.

Bridge Constructor Playground

Similar to Build a Bridge, this app creates complex environments such as rivers and gorges for players to build over. Bridge Constructor Playground however offers more flexibility than Build a Bridge through unlimited budgets and materials. After building a bridge users must then test their bridge to see how well it can withstand the weight of heavy traffic. Unfortunately, the free version of the game is just a demo jam-packed with ads but the extended version of the game is available to androids and IOS users for an additional cost.

Bridge Construction Sim 2

This fun free android game allows players to participate in various construction procedures. From transporting equipment to drilling behind the wheels of a bulldozer players get a fun opportunity to see the different aspects that go into a project. This game creates a 3D simulation of a construction site thus offering some realistic components however many users complain about the high number of ads for every task and level glitches.

Bad Bridge

Another great construction app available to IOS and android users is Bad Bridge. Contrary to the title, Bad Bridge teaches users how to create stronger bridges that complete the project’s overall goal. Players are taught how to use different materials, joints, and bridge designs to stay within budget and withhold daily traffic. This free app challenges users with several levels of difficult situations and best of all, no advertisements.

Construction Site Games

A great and exciting way for construction workers to practice their skills and critical thinking is by performing construction games every once in a while. This may sound strange but it isn’t anything new. In fact, some machine manufactures use activities like construction Jenga to advertise the abilities of their machines.

Construction Jenga is a popular construction game that allows workers to learn their equipment and train their precision. One worker directs the operator as they attempt to maneuver blocks of wood in and out of the stack without moving the other pieces.

Building with U.S. Bridge

We are a family business that develops bridges around the world.  Every detail of your bridge is met with a level of attention and efficiency to ensure it is delivered on time and delivered to your specifications. Additionally, if you build a bridge using one of our prefabricated kits, our experienced bridge team will be sent to establish an effortless process.

To find out more about our experienced team and excellent bridges, please contact U.S. Bridge today. Or try out our exclusive bridge scope tool for a quick and easy bridge proposal!

Bridge Engineering

No one wants to make something twice. That’s why it’s so important to build it to perfection the first time, especially if it’s something time-consuming and expensive such as a bridge. With extensive experience in bridge engineering, bridge construction can be effortless and efficient.

At U.S. Bridge, we’ve been engineering and building bridges for over 80 years. Here’s how our bridge engineering process leads to seamless bridge construction.

The Bridge Engineering Process

Understanding the Problem

There are several different reasons to build a bridge. It could be to connect communities or provide a secure commerce route for heavy trucks. Regardless, the first step for the bridge design team is to understand why the bridge is being built. What problem is it meant to solve?

Once our team of engineers understands this, then they can move forward in designing a bridge that will properly address the reason for the bridge.

Understanding the problem also allows engineers to answer other questions such as where and how. It’s the first step to designing the final product.

Determining the Scope

After knowing more about the problem, our engineers create and compare different solutions to the problem. This includes analyzing what design would work best for the bridge and the pros and cons of each option. Then they also consider other factors like the weight of the materials and how the environment would affect the bridge.

We establish elements like the structural capacity, environmental impact, and constructibility of the bridge. In the final analysis, all of these factors and more are carefully considered to determine the scope of the bridge construction project.

The Actual Design Process

Once the scope of the project has been determined, then our engineers are able to begin the design process. Theories of solutions materialize as we calculate the details on elevation, span lengths, deck widths, vertical clearances, and bridge structure among other logistics.

In addition, we also create virtual models to enable our customers to visualize their project.

This is also the part where we create an initial budget analysis for our clients. These calculations are vital to the bridge design process. Budgets are how we ensure the project is ideal for the bridge owner’s needs before proceeding to the construction phase.

The Bridge Construction Process

Our various manufacturing options provide a solution for various projects and budgets. From timber bridges to prefabricated steel, we design, manufacture, and build them all. Following the decisions finalized during the design phase, we begin the construction process. Our bridge supplies are shipped worldwide and our team is present during construction to guarantee its execution.

With more than 250,000 sq ft of engineering and fabricating facilities including dedicated truss, painting, and post and tube centers, located on a 6-acre campus, we provide the highest level of quality bridge available.

Throughout the entire process, we work directly with our clients and communicate with all members of the project for an effortless process.

Perfect Bridge Engineering with U.S. Bridge

Our bridge engineering expertise makes the bridge construction and design process effortless. Save yourself time and money by partnering with an industry leader in steel bridge design and construction.

U.S. Bridge has completed more than 10,000 bridge projects and has experience working in more than 50 countries. Our team engineers and builds bridges of many different styles and sizes. All of our designs are custom-made to fit the needs of our customers.  Contact us today to receive your free quote!