Hidden in Plain Sight–the Design, Cost and Maintenance Advantages of Steel Buried Bridges

Sometimes, the best solutions to challenges we face can be hidden in plain sight. A new video released by the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA), National Corrugated Steel Pipe Association (NCSPA) and Big R Bridge invites cash-strapped, time-challenged bridge designers and owners to look beyond traditional above-ground bridge design solutions and consider a proven durable, cost-effective alternative.

The five-minute video covers the construction of the 200th Street Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa, where a steel buried bridge was chosen to replace a 40-foot-long, two-span timber stringer bridge built in 1956 that had rotting timbers. Interviews with Buchanan County Engineer Brian Keierleber, P.E.; Joel Hahm, P.E., Senior Engineer from Big R Bridge; and contractor Eric Zieser from Zieser Construction provide an interesting case study on the overall benefits of steel buried bridge systems and technical details on why this type of design was selected for this particular project. View it here.


Structural steel plate used as buried bridges is a viable design option in almost all cases where a traditional bridge is used due to industry advancements in design and analysis tools, as well as deeper corrugation profiles that allow for longer spans, heavier loads, and higher cover. This design is particularly useful in the 25-foot to 80-foot span range.

Design Advantages
Steel buried bridges are durable and resilient, with the ability to support very heavy loads. Cars, trucks and highway loads pose no problem, as these bridges can be designed to carry mining shovels and other equipment weighing over four million pounds, large off-road trucks weighing over one million pounds, and freight train loads. The secret to their success lies in taking advantage of the proven benefits of soil-structure interaction, where the backfill and structure work together to support the load.

Lead times on the design and material acquisition for a buried bridge are usually much faster than a traditional bridge, as the structure is pretty much designed by the time the project is awarded. Approval drawings can be prepared very quickly, and in many cases it can take just weeks to go from a signed contract to having a product on site.

Even better, potential buried bridge design solutions can be viewed free of charge with the website tool eSPAN140 developed by the SSSBA and several partners. The tool requires only three project inputs, and provides the user with contact information for SSSBA member companies that can quickly provide a customized design solution. Try it here.

Cost Advantages
Buried bridges take advantage of Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) techniques and can be built with local crews using their own equipment. The four-man crew that worked on the 200th Street Bridge had no prior experience on this type of bridge, yet found it easy and manageable to construct using basic equipment. Many buried bridges can be built in two days or less, excluding foundation work.

Since the steel plates stack easily, in most cases they can be shipped to the project site on a single truck, saving shipping costs and reducing environmental impacts. At the site, individual plates can be handled with skid steer loaders, forklift trucks, backhoes, and other light equipment.

Because they are compact, structures can be shipped when ready and easily stored in the yard or at the site and built when the schedule permits.

Maintenance Advantages
There is no bridge deck to maintain on a buried bridge, and there are no joints or bearings to repair and replace, resulting in low maintenance and inspection costs.

Additionally, since there is little differential movement or settlement between the buried bridge and adjacent embankments, the “bump at the end of the bridge” that occurs with traditional bridges is effectively eliminated. As a result, maintenance at the surface is essentially the same as it would be for any other section of the road.

Additional Information
There are many more benefits to steel buried bridges. In addition to the video, the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance includes a technical Q&A with Joel Hahm on its website. Click here to view the Q&A.

The National Corrugated Steel Pipe Association and Big R Bridge offer additional information on these bridge systems.

In Buchanan County, Iowa, the drivers and passengers of cars, trucks and heavy equipment who cross over the 200th Street Bridge may not even realize they’re on a bridge―but those who designed and built it can be confident that it will provide safe crossings for many years to come.

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Life Cycle Costs Matter When Comparing Steel and Concrete Girder Bridges

As a bridge engineer, professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming, and a member of the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance’s Bridge Technology Center, Michael Barker, Ph.D., P.E., makes frequent michael-barkerpresentations on the economics of short span bridge design to county engineers, state Department of Transportation (DOT) engineers and bridge owners. Over the years, he has received numerous questions about Life Service and Life Cycle Costs, especially concerning steel and concrete girder bridges. His answers were always anecdotal, as research didn’t exist―until now.With a keen interest in finding answers to these persistent questions, Dr. Barker took a sabbatical from the university to conduct his own research. He started with a comprehensive inventory of bridges and consideration of initial costs and installation dates, maintenance costs and timing, and end-of-service dates. After considering the availability of historical data, he narrowed the scope of research to include initial costs, future costs, and service lives of 1,186 typical steel and concrete state bridges in Pennsylvania built between 1960 and 2010.

A portion of Dr. Barker’s research focused on short-length bridges of 140 feet or less, which make up approximately half of the U.S. inventory that needs to be repaired or replaced. The research examined costs with respect to variability in bridge type, span length, number of spans, and bridge life. Typical bridges are defined in the study as those with concrete decks supported by steel rolled beams, steel plate girders, precast concrete boxes, or precast concrete beams. Working from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) historical records, he developed a database to determine and compare the life cycle costs of steel and concrete girder bridges. More detailed information on the parameters of the research and determination of values for life cycle costs are included in the presentation located here.

For the short-length bridges included in the PennDOT database, the research demonstrated:

  • The steel I-beam had the longest life.
  • The steel I-beam had the lowest cost.
  • Steel bridges have lower future costs compared to initial costs.
  • None of the bridges clearly beat out the others, meaning any one type of bridge may be the most economical for a given bridge project.

Overall Results
After analyzing the extensive data collected, Dr. Barker concludes:

  • Typical steel and concrete bridges are competitive on initial costs, future costs, life cycle costs and bridge life.
  • For any given bridge project, steel or concrete bridge types may be the most economical. Therefore,
  • Owners should consider both steel and concrete alternatives for individual bridge projects.

The research results do not provide a clear preference for either material. However, the results clearly disprove generally accepted assumptions by bridge engineers that concrete girder bridges are the least-cost solution for every short span project.

It is clear from the research that bridge owners and design professionals who want to find the most economical and long-lasting solutions for repairing and replacing their bridge inventories should conduct a thorough cost analysis that considers the potential benefits of steel and concrete options. Conducting the analysis upfront could save thousands of dollars down the road in maintenance and repair costs.

To download the complete report, “Historical Life Cycle Costs of Steel and Concrete Girder Bridges,” click here.

To download the Fact Sheet, click here.

For more information, contact Dr. Barker at Barker@uwyo.edu.

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Turning a Challenge Into an Innovative Design Solution

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” claims a popular adage. But sometimes lasting change comes from a good old-fashioned challenge.

The Amish Sawmill Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa is the first steel press-brake-formed tub girder bridge in service in the  United States.

The Amish Sawmill Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa is the first steel press-brake-formed tub girder bridge in service in the United States.

One example is when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) charged the North American steel industry in 2009 to “develop a cost-effective short span steel bridge with modular components which could be placed into the mainstream and meet the needs of today’s bridge owners, including Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC).” Grappling with a national bridge inventory overrun with structurally deficient and functionally obsolete structures―nearly half of which fall in the short span category of under 140 feet―the agency was ready for some new ideas.

Stepping up to the challenge, the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) reached out to 30 steel-related and government organizations, university faculty and bridge owners to tackle the problem. The Modular Steel Bridge Task Group was born, with Karl Barth, Ph.D., P.E., Samples Professor – Civil and Environmental Engineering at West Virginia University, appointed as chairman. After considering several options, the group decided on a shallow steel press-brake tub girder technology ― also known as folded plate girder or folded plate ― to meet the FHWA objectives for economic value, innovation, and ABC practices. A preliminary specimen design for the new system was developed, and three years of initial testing followed. Remarkably, the idea went from concept to reality in just three years.

What’s a PBTG?
The press-brake-formed tub girder (PBTG) system is different from a traditional bridge because it consists of modular galvanized shallow trapezoidal boxes fabricated from cold-bent structural steel plate. The modules are available in hot-dipped galvanized or weathering steels, and can be easily transported by truck to the project site.

The system utilizes standard plate widths (based on availability) and is optimized to achieve maximum structural capacity, with most of the steel in the bottom flange and increased torsional stiffness. It is versatile for multiple-deck options.

Modular precast decks are recommended. Deck options include pre-topped, Sandwich Plate System, full-depth panel and partial-depth panel.

Mastering the ABCs
The press-brake-formed tub girder system utilizes Accelerated Bridge Construction practices, since:
•  The tub girders can be installed in one or two days.
•  It’s modular, allowing the use of a precast deck.
•  It’s cost-effective―as much as 1/3 less than a standard concrete girder structure.
•  It’s simple to fabricate, requiring very little welding.
•  It reduces the need for additional details such as stiffeners and cross frames.

Press-brake-formed tub girders can be used for both tangent and skewed configurations, as well as simple and continuous spans. They are recommended for single spans up to 60 feet, but can be spliced for spans up to 80 feet.

From Blueprint to Service
Buchanan County (Iowa) Engineer Brian Keierleber, P.E. was awarded a grant from the FHWA’s Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment Program (IBRD) to replace the Amish Sawmill Bridge at 1358 Dillon Avenue in Fairbank, Iowa. The $350,000 grant was awarded on the basis of using a trapezoidal bent steel girder section supported on Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS), laying the groundwork to install the first PBTG bridge in the United States.

Construction on the Amish Sawmill Bridge began in late summer 2015 and was completed in December 2015. The deck for this project was cast-in-place, rather than using modular pre-cast deck units, which added to the time of construction. It was built with a local crew, and was dedicated on January 8, 2016 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring several government and transportation officials.

The idea is catching on, and three more PBTG bridges are scheduled for construction in 2016―two in West Virginia and one in Ohio. In February 2016, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Muskingum County were awarded an Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) Demonstration grant to replace a bridge on County Road 7 – Cannelville Road using PBTG technology with a steel Sandwich Plate System deck.

Several state Departments of Transportation have expressed interest in building PBTG bridges in their jurisdictions. The technology is appealing because it offers: 1) significant cost savings, 2) ease in shipment and fabrication, 3) accelerated construction, 4) design versatility, and 5) sustainability―steel is the world’s most recycled material and at the end of the bridge’s life, it will be transformed into another steel product. With so many benefits, the press-brake-formed steel tub girder technology can help rebuild America’s infrastructure―an innovative and effective solution to the FHWA challenge.

For more information on how press-brake-formed tub girders can meet your bridge replacement needs, contact Dr. Karl Barth at Karl.Barth@mail.wvu.edu or Rich Tavoletti at rtavoletti@steel.org.

Posted in Accelerated Bridge Design and Construction, Bridge Design Economics, County Bridges, FHWA, Modular Bridges, Plate Girder, short span bridge design tools, Short Span Bridges, Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance, Steel Bridges | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Breathing New LIFE Into Short Span Steel Bridge Design

It’s no secret that the U.S. infrastructure needs an overhaul, especially for many of its structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges – nearly half of which fall in the short span category.

To address this national crisis, the Federal Highway Association (FHWA) introduced the Highways for LIFE initiative to promote the development of bridge design and construction that leads to Long-lasting bridges that are Innovative, have Fast construction times, and are economically Efficient.

The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) took on the Highways for LIFE challenge. Working with several partners, the group explored new methods for increasing the efficiency of steel girder bridge design. They developed a set of standardized designs that are now included in an easy-to-use online tool called eSPAN140. Available to use free of charge at http://www.espan140.com/, the tool offers four major sets of bridge designs for spans between 40 feet and 140 feet ― “limited depth” rolled beam sections, “lightest weight” rolled beam sections, homogeneous plate girder sections, and hybrid plate girder sections. The girders are designed in five-foot increments. eSPAN140 provides users with customized steel design solutions for their bridge projects.

Taking the next step, the eSPAN140 developers worked with buchanan-1Buchanan County (Iowa) Engineer Brian Keierleber, P.E. and others to construct the first bridge designed with eSPAN140. Opened to service in 2013, the Jesup South Bridge serves local residents as well as researchers by providing data from live load testing that will serve as a benchmark for future analytical studies on short span steel bridge behavior.

A just-released technical report details the development of eSPAN140 and its associated design standards, provides an overview of the design of the Jesup South Bridge project, and describes the research methods and field tests conducted on that bridge. Using data from both the physical field tests of the Jesup South Bridge as well as the analysis of finite element models simulating the experiments, a series of standardized bridge responses were assessed. The report provides experimental and analytical testing data which proves that eSPAN140 is quite capable of producing efficient and economical solutions in the short span range ― concluding that eSPAN140 provides all the necessary parameters for county engineers to refine and synthesize an effective short span steel bridge design.

Titled “eSPAN140 Performance Assessment: V-65 Jesup South Bridge (Buchanan County, Iowa),” the report is available to download free of charge. Download the report.

Why should county engineers; bridge designers at local, state and federal Departments of Transportation; bridge owners; professors; students and others read the report? Because it provides a detailed look at the future of short span steel bridge design with solutions that can be implemented today:

  • eSPAN140 produces customized, efficient and economical solutions for bridges with spans of 140 feet or less.
  • eSPAN140 provides the necessary parameters to refine and synthesize an effective short span steel bridge design.
  • eSPAN140 expedites the design process and provides a more streamlined process for shop drawing review, eliminating many weeks in the timeline of a project.

While the infrastructure challenges facing the U.S. are daunting, they are not insurmountable. A proven, cost-effective engineering solution is available to those charged with meeting the challenge. It starts with http://www.espan140.com.

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Smart Ways to Save Time and Money on Short Span Bridge Design and Construction

While America’s infrastructure continues to crumble, federal lawmakers are still unresolved on how to fund these projects. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that an additional $150 billion per year is required through 2020 to meet the national infrastructure crisisBoggs Road Bridge

In the meantime, bridges continue to need repair or replacement. Short span bridges (140 feet or less) dominate the national inventory, and county engineers are forced to find innovative ways to fund and resource these projects. With the increasingly growing demand and continued gridlock for additional funding, what’s a county engineer to do? Here are some options to consider.

“Bundling” Bridges and Other Approaches With Cost-Saving Results

Going at it Alone
Buying in bulk to save costs works for groceries, and can also be applied to bridges. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) demonstrated this approach when it launched a $685 million Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program in September 2008, with the goal of having 802 bridge projects across each of its 114 counties completed by the end of 2014. Nearly 250 of those bridges were rehabilitation projects processed through the DOT’s monthly letting schedule, with 100 under contract by the spring of 2009. The remaining 554 bridges were complete replacements through a single design-build contract, which was undertaken by KTU Constructors.

The results are impressive – all 802 bridges were completed in just 3.5 years (more than a year ahead of schedule), with more than 90 percent of the work performed by Missouri workers (Read more here). This program was recognized with the People’s Choice Award in the 2013 America’s Transportation Awards competition sponsored by the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA and the National Chamber of Commerce.

Public/Private Partnerships (P3)
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce defines this relationship as such: “A typical P3 works as a contract between a private entity and a state or local government to help finance and build a specified infrastructure project; the private partner may also take on responsibility for managing and maintaining the project. In return, the private entity is paid back through tolls, gas tax revenues or any associated fees. Read more here.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) took a P3 approach with its Rapid Bridge Replacement Program to address the state’s nearly 4,200 structurally deficient bridges. Approved in September 2013, this program was selected to replace 558 of those bridges, with the benefits of less construction time, significant cost savings for taxpayers, and minimal impact on the traveling public. In October 2014, Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners was selected as PennDOT’s private partner.

The bridges selected for the Rapid Bridge Replacement Program have similar characteristics, are relatively small and can be designed and constructed to standard sizes. Their similarity allows for streamlined design, prefabrication of standardized components such as beams, and a compressed time frame for replacement.

Under the contract, the company and its subcontractors will manage the bridges’ design, construction and maintenance for 25 years after construction is complete, while PennDOT maintains ownership of the bridges throughout the contract. Construction begins this summer, and all 558 bridges must be replaced within three years. Significant savings will be realized: The average cost for design, construction and maintenance per bridge in the project is $1.6 million; compared with PennDOT’s standard process, where the cost to design, construct and maintain a bridge for 28 years would average more than $2 million. The savings will be used to address other infrastructure needs. Read more here.

A New Approach Offering Even More Cost Savings
In a fairly new approach, some county engineers are crossing state lines to explore similar options to “bundle” their bridge projects with neighboring Departments of Transportation. This strategy empowers multiple states to combine their funding and workforce resources to get the most cost-effective and time-saving results.

County engineers can take additional steps to cut costs by choosing steel for their projects and using a new free, web-based tool, eSPAN140, to design them. The cost of a steel bridge can be lower than a concrete bridge, as demonstrated in a comparison study of two nearly identical short span bridges built with steel and concrete in Audrain County, Missouri. Researchers found that steel saved more than 25 percent over the concrete superstructure, with an overall 19.3% savings in the total cost of the structure. Read more here.

eSPAN140 delivers additional cost savings by providing simplified standard plans for rolled beam, plate girder, corrugated structural plate, and corrugated steel pipe structures. eSPAN140 also provides contact information for multiple fabricators with the capacity to replace hundreds of bridges quickly. To use eSPAN140, the user simply enters a minimum of three project requirements and receives customized design results in less than five minutes. Since its launch in 2012, more than 1,800 designs have been generated by eSPAN140.

With these resources readily available, steel is a logical choice for bundled solutions that save taxpayers and state DOTs even more time and money.

Using Local Crews
A new video is now in production that will provide comprehensive training for county crews on how to construct a short span steel bridge in 30 days. The work is demonstrated by a seasoned crew working on two bridge replacement projects in Muskingum County, Ohio – the Green Valley Road Bridge and the Boggs Road Bridge. The use of local crews is a proven cost-saving measure in the construction of short span bridges.

To learn more about the cost-effective benefits of steel or to request a free workshop for your state’s Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Center, contact Dan Snyder at dsnyder@steel.org.

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Joining the National Focus on America’s Infrastructure Challenges

Tub Girders - WVU Lab 1 - Mar 2014 low res

The press-brake-formed tub girder is a cost-effective new technology for short span steel bridge design. Learn more at a free webinar on May 12 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT.

For one week this month, several prominent organizations representing business, labor and public policy will focus on the United States’ infrastructure challenges. They will host events and activities to “highlight the critical importance of investing in and modernizing America’s infrastructure systems, and the essential role infrastructure plays in our economy.” Infrastructure Week 2015 will be held from May 11-15.

The steel industry is participating with a free webinar on “Innovative, Cost-Effective Options for Short Span Steel Bridge Design” being held Tuesday, May 12 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm EDT. In cooperation with the American Iron and Steel Institute and the American Galvanizers Association, the webinar will be conducted by Dr. Greg Michaelson, Professor at the Weisberg Division of Engineering at Marshall University and a member of the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance. Continuing education credits are available. Register for the free webinar here.

Dr. Michaelson will discuss a new technology for short span bridges with the potential to deliver significant cost savings for bridge owners and shorter construction times for crews (and thus fewer traffic delays). This press-brake-formed tub girder technology consists of modular galvanized shallow trapezoidal boxes fabricated from cold-bent structural steel plate. Several different options are available for the deck, including precast concrete and sandwich plate systems (SPS). These modular units can then be transported by truck to the bridge site. Read about the research here.

The new system offers several advantages:

  • It’s modular, so it can be quickly transported to the construction site.
  • It can be installed in one or two days.
  • It’s simple to fabricate and install.
  • It can save significant fabrication costs.
  • It requires fewer details.
  • It can be used for both tangent and skewed configurations, as well as simple and continuous spans.
  • It has the potential to cost-effectively replace thousands of short span bridges in need of repair or replacement.
  • It has the potential to open business opportunities for bridge fabricators that want to manufacture the units.

The first two bridge projects utilizing this system will be constructed this year in Iowa and West Virginia. The Amish Sawmill Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa will be constructed with an FHWA Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment (IBRD) program grant, starting in late summer. Several potential sites are currently being evaluated in West Virginia, with construction anticipated to begin in late summer as well.

During the webinar, Dr. Michaelson will also discuss an innovative new design tool, eSPAN140, which is free, web-based, and delivers customized preliminary short span steel bridge design in three steps and under five minutes. The Jesup South Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa was the first bridge in the nation to be built from an eSPAN140 design. Read more here.

Join the discussion during Infrastructure Week 2015. Register for the free webinar, and check out the other events being held. For more information on press-brake-formed tub girders and other cost-effective short span steel bridge solutions, please contact Dan Snyder at dsnyder@steel.org.

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Muskingum County’s Short Span Steel Bridge Solution – Quicker, More Cost-Effective and Constructed in 30 Days!

When the Muskingum County (Ohio) Engineers Office (MCEO) Boggs Road Bridge - Muskingum County OH - June 2014needed to replace the structurally deficient Boggs Road Bridge near Zanesville, a detailed engineering analysis was conducted to compare the cost of replacing the existing bridge with steel or concrete.

The original 33-foot bridge built in the 1950s was showing signs of deterioration, and weight limits had been imposed. Muskingum County Engineer Douglas R. Davis, P.E., P.S., compared the cost of five galvanized steel beams with the cost of six concrete box beams which were needed to replace the bridge superstructure. His engineering analysis found that:

  • He could save $10,000 by choosing the five galvanized steel beams for the superstructure.
  • He could use his local crew to do the work since they would not need a crane to set the 1.5-ton steel beams, saving significant costs on materials and equipment rental.
  • He was able to secure a 35-year warranty on the galvanized coating system and the ability to rehabilitate the steel in the future.

Additional costs were attained by designing the 24-foot wide steel beam structure in-house. The new Boggs Road Bridge was constructed of five beam lines, five-feet on center covered with a nine-inch-thick cast-in-place composite concrete reinforced deck with no skew, placed on new concrete abutments with spread footings.

The superstructure was fabricated by U.S. Bridge in Cambridge, Ohio and hot-dip galvanized prior to delivery. MCEO crews began the removal and replacement of the bridge on May 20, 2014, and the new bridge reopened to traffic just one month later. Click here for details on the construction process.

MCEO likes steel, and approximately 60 percent of the county’s 415 bridges are steel. The inventory includes 42 steel truss bridges (one built in 1913), three steel girders, 186 steel beam bridges and 19 steel culverts (buried soil steel structures).

Why choose steel? Because steel is:

  • Strong and economical for the county’s typical span lengths.
  • Easy to fabricate and construct.
  • Easy to install, with a strength-to-weight ratio that allows most structures to be erected without the use of a crane.
  • Easy to maintain and repair, which promotes structure longevity.
  • Recyclable and reusable, allowing steel structures to be reused or repurposed in other locations, saving tens of thousands of dollars.

A new web-based design tool, eSPAN140, allows users to receive preliminary customized short span steel bridge designs in three easy steps and at no cost, with results in less than five minutes.

Do you have a creative short span steel bridge solution? Click here to tell us about it.

Posted in Accelerated Bridge Design and Construction, Bridge Design Economics, County Bridges, eSPAN140, Installation, Material Recycling, Plate Girder, short span bridge design tools, Short Span Bridges, Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance, Steel Bridges, Superstructure, Sustainability | Leave a comment

Ohio County Finds Creative, Sustainable Steel Solutions for Bridge Replacement

Green Valley Muskingum County completed bridgeMuskingum County (Ohio) Engineer Doug Davis, P.E., P.S. and his team have found a creative, sustainable way to replace short span bridges while saving taxpayers money. How? They use recycled steel bridge beams.

In a recent project near Zanesville, the team repurposed W33x141 beams salvaged from a previous bridge replacement in the county to replace the Green Valley Road Bridge superstructure. The new bridge is 52 feet long and 20 feet wide with five beam lines, four feet on center.

Why use recycled steel beams? For Davis, it’s a matter of cost. He saved the county $51,000 in superstructure costs by using the repurposed beams. “When the span length, beam size, and hydraulic opening allow, we always consider the use of previously removed beams or beams that are currently in service as part of structures that are scheduled to be replaced,” he says.

The Green Valley Road Bridge is the fifth in his county to be replaced with repurposed steel beams.

Davis finds his steel beams from a local fabricator and an iron recycling/scrap yard. “In our sustainable, fiscally strapped world, we firmly believe that one person’s metal scrap can be repurposed to help modernize our infrastructure,” he says.

Using steel also saves costs because short span steel bridges are light in weight and can typically be constructed with on-hand tools and equipment using local work crews.

Significant costs can also be realized in the design phase. The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance offers a free, web-based tool called eSPAN140 that allows users to design steel bridges of less than 140 feet in fewer than five minutes. Users can access the tool at www.eSPAN140.com and follow three easy steps to receive customized preliminary designs.

Creative, sustainable steel solutions are essential to rebuilding the nation’s short span bridges, and Muskingum County, Ohio is on the cutting edge. For more information on the Green Valley Road Bridge project, click here. For more information on the benefits of steel for short span bridge design and construction, visit www.ShortSpanSteelBridges.org or contact Dan Snyder at dsnyder@steel.org.

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Taking on America’s Infrastructure Challenge, One County at a Time

ScBuchanan County Bridge Crewhedule a complimentary technology transfer session today!

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gives the U.S. a “C+” for its bridges, stating that: “In total, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years.”

According to the National Association of County Engineers, more than 231,000 U.S. bridges are owned by counties. Most of these are classified as short span bridges of less than 140 feet. The common challenge faced by these counties is a huge demand for bridge repair/replacement, but insufficient funds available to meet it.

Now, tools and information are available to meet this formidable challenge. The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) has developed design tools and implemented technology transfer sessions for county engineers, bridge owners and designers to equip them to move forward. Steel is an optimal material for short span bridges, ensuring durability, speed of design and construction, ease of installation, light weight, the use of local crews, cost-effectiveness and time efficiencies.

The SSSBA offers these tools and technology transfer sessions:

  • eSPAN140 – A free, web-based design tool that provides customized short span steel bridge solutions in less than five minutes. To access this tool, users go to espan140.com; type in the parameters for their projects such as span length, width and the number of striped traffic lanes; and receive customized preliminary designs and the names of suppliers and fabricators who can take the project from concept through completion. Since 2012, more than 1,300 preliminary designs have been generated by eSPAN140.
  • Short Span Steel Bridge Workshops – The SSSBA offers complimentary educational on-site workshops specifically for Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) and Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) Centers. The half-day workshops provide practical information on the safe and cost-effective design, detail, fabrication and installation of short span steel bridges (under 140 feet)―including information on standardized designs developed by the bridge industry.
  • Steel Bridge Forum – The SSSBA and the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) team up to conduct one-day workshops that cover short-, medium- and long-span steel bridge design, and associate research. The Steel Bridge Forums are conducted throughout the U.S. and are ideal for Departments of Transportation. The next Steel Bridge Forum will be held November 19, 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • National/Regional Bridge Conferences – SSSBA representatives and county engineers discuss short span steel bridge design and construction at several conferences throughout the year. The following events are scheduled for the remainder of 2014:
    • SSSBA representatives are hosting three sessions at the National Accelerated Bridge Construction Conference, December 3-5, in Miami, Florida:
      1) “Guidelines for the Design of Efficient Steel Bridges Using AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications” (Pre-Conference) | December 3, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
      2) “Development of Economical Short Span Steel Bridge Standards” | December 4, 2014 | 2:50 p.m. – 3:10 p.m.
      3) “Development of a Press-Brake-Formed Modular Steel Tub Girder for Accelerated Bridge Construction” | December 5, 2014 | 10:50 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.
    • Iowa’s Muskingum County Engineer Doug Davis, P.E., P.S. will discuss his team’s choice of steel in the design and construction of two new short span bridges at the Iowa County Engineers Conference on December 10 at 9 am. in Ames, Iowa.
  • Webinars – The SSSBA hosts one-hour webinars on short span steel bridge design that are eligible for Professional Development Hours (PDHs), conducted by Dr. Michael Barker at the University of Wyoming, Dr. Karl Barth at West Virginia University, and special guest speakers.
  • Ask an Expert –The SSSBA offers complimentary design support for questions relating to bridge and buried soil steel structure design through its Bridge Technology Center. The topics include standard design and details of short span bridges (plate girder and rolled beams, corrugated steel pipe and structural plate), prefabricated short span steel solutions, durability solutions, and more.
  • Case Studies – Efficiencies in design, cost and time on specific projects are documented in case studies on the SSSBA website, ShortSpanSteelBridges.org.
  • Videos – Short clips on two important projects are included on the SSSBA website, ShortSpanSteelBridges.org:
    • An overview of the design and construction of the first bridge built with an eSPAN140 design ― the Jesup South Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa ― as told by the engineers who worked on the project.
    • A cost comparison of two nearly identical bridges in Audrain County, Missouri ― one built with steel and the other with concrete ― in which the steel short span superstructure provided a 25.8% cost savings over the concrete bridge, with an overall 19.3% savings in the total cost of the structure.
    • In 2015, a training video that demonstrates the installation of a short span steel bridge from start to finish will be posted on the website.

America’s infrastructure is in crisis, but there are long-lasting, cost-effective steel solutions available now to meet the challenge, county by county. If you have not considered or used steel in the design of short span bridges, we invite you to review the information available and to try eSPAN140 for one of your own projects.

For more information or to schedule a workshop, seminar or speaker, please contact Dan Snyder, SSSBA Director of Business Development, at dsnyder@steel.org.

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“I’m Just Sayin'” – Bridge Designers and Builders Talk About Their Experiences With eSPAN140 and the Jesup South Bridge

Buchanan County (Iowa) Engineer Brian Keierleber, P.E. stands by the new Jesup South Bridge.

Buchanan County (Iowa) Engineer Brian Keierleber, P.E. stands by the new Jesup South Bridge.

Before buying a big-ticket item, cost-conscious consumers usually begin by doing some research. They shop around to learn about the product; check out comments made online; and speak with colleagues, friends, and product specialists before making their decision. Selections are often made based on the product’s quality and by how much time or money can be saved by the buyer.

County engineers and other transportation officials who are responsible for repairing or replacing bridges in the short span category—140 feet or less—must also consider durability, cost-effectiveness and time savings when choosing a material. Recommendations from their colleagues can be important factors in these decisions.

The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) has put together a four-minute video that tells the story of the design and construction of the Jesup South Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa by the professionals who were involved in all aspects of the project. The Jesup South Bridge was the first one built from an eSPAN140-generated design. eSPAN140 is a free, web-based, interactive design tool that produces customized steel designs in less than five minutes. Since its launch in 2012, more than 1,000 preliminary designs have been generated.

The original Jesup South Bridge was one of the most heavily traveled in Buchanan County, with a sufficiency rating of 49 and way too narrow for the big loads that traveled over it. The new bridge is now in service. In the video, you’ll hear from:

  • Brian Keierleber, P.E., County Engineer, Buchanan County, Iowa – While self-described as “not real computer-literate,” Brian found eSPAN140 very easy to use – and he’ll use it for future projects as well.
  • Dennis Gonano, Director of Engineering, U.S. Bridge – Dennis provides a fabricator’s perspective on taking the eSPAN140 design and turning it into customized steel beams for the bridge, as well as the benefits of hot-dip galvanizing.
  • Randy Andrews, Bridge Foreman, Buchanan County, Iowa – While this was a bigger job than Randy and his crew had undertaken before, they completed it on their own.
  • Karl Barth, Ph.D., Samples Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, West Virginia University and a lead team developer of eSPAN140 – Over the lifetime of the bridge, instrumentation placed by Dr. Barth is measuring construction load effects and how the bridge is meeting design code criteria.
  • Greg Michaelson, Ph.D., former Graduate Research Assistant at West Virginia University and now a professor at Marshall University – Dr. Michaelson comments on the bridge instrumentation.
  • Robert Wills, Vice President, Construction, Steel Market Development Institute – The Jesup South Bridge project shows county engineers that safe steel designs can be put in place very simply and cost-effectively, giving them confidence to use eSPAN140 for their own projects.

While eSPAN140 saved time by providing standardized preliminary designs, the use of steel saved money since the local crew was able to construct it, and no heavy equipment was required during the construction process.

The 76 companies that make up the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance invite you to take four minutes to see what your colleagues are saying about eSPAN140. Please go to www.ShortSpanSteelBridges.org and click on the video titled “Jesup South Bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa.” Then click on the eSPAN140 logo in the center of the home page and try eSPAN140 for yourself. We think that like Brian and his crew, you’ll like this one-stop shopping experience and will come back again. 

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