Weathering Steel – New River Gorge Bridge 25 Years Later

The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet (924 m) long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. With an arch 1,700 feet (518 m) long, the bridge is now the third longest in the US.

See historic footage of the construction of the bridge in this video:

Tours of the bridge are now available.  The “Bridge Walk” tours — launched in Sept. 2010 — allow guests an up-close look at the workings of the bridge and its engineering highlights and to experience the massive structure that connects the banks of the New River National River.  One of the more remarkable features is that the bridge was constructed with weathering steel – it is the largest arch bridge constructed using this material.  The bridge was built in 1977 and is still performing well, according to a study conducted by West Virginia University.

Bridge engineers choose weathering steel for its performance, economical and environmental benefits. Weathering steels contain elements that allow them to form a protective coating patina or coating when properly exposed to the atmosphere. The use of uncoated weathering steel typically provides initial cost savings of 10 percent or more, and life cycle cost savings of at least 30 percent over the life of the structure. Initial cost savings are realized because weathering steels do not need to be painted. Life cycle cost savings are realized by the material’s durability. Inspections of bridges in service between 18 and 30 years show that weathering steel performs well in most environments.

Weathering steels provide environmental benefits as well. They do not require initial painting, thereby reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) when oil-based coatings are used. They do not require coating removal or disposal of contaminated blast debris over the life span of the structure, providing another significant environmental benefit.

For more information on weathering steel, also see a collection of videos on the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance’s website.

About Rich Tavoletti

Rich Tavoletti is Director of the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance. He is also Director of the Container Market program for the Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, and Executive Director of the Canned Food Alliance. Rich has extensive experience in marketing and communications. He was marketing manager at the Steel Recycling Institute. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at rtavoletti@steel.org.
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