Demonstration Bridge Webcam Video

View the construction from start to finish of the eSPAN140 demonstration bridge in Buchanan County, Iowa.

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Work Gets Underway in Iowa for Short Span Steel Demonstration Bridge Using eSPAN140


An innovative, first-of-its-kind, bridge-building demonstration sponsored by the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance is now underway in Buchanan County, Iowa. The design for the replacement bridge was created using eSPAN140, the free web-based design tool developed by the SSSBA to provide a more cost-effective manner to quickly design short span steel bridges. (See to learn more about the design tool). Click here to see the video from the live construction camera that was placed on the job site.

Old Buchanan County Short Span Bridge before Demoltion

This is the old bridge located outside Jesup, Iowa that is being replaced with a new short span steel bridge. This bridge was demolished August 20 by a Buchanan County Secondary Roads crew.

The bridge to be replaced is located on V-65 south of Jesup, Iowa

The old bridge was demolished on August 20, 2013. Built in 1947, it had a sufficiency rating of less than 5 and was only 22 ft. wide. In its place will be a modern 40 ft. wide bridge with galvanized steel rolled-beams and galvanized rebar. The bridge construction and replacement is scheduled for completion in late October.

Demonstration Project Team


  • Buchanan County, Iowa: Installation/Demolition

Design, Research and  Testing

This demonstration bridge project is a joint effort with West Virginia University, the University of Wyoming and Iowa State University.

Click here to read more about the project start from the Iowa DOT.

To learn more about the demonstration project send an email to Dan Snyder.

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Iowa Demonstration Bridge Sponsors

These companies, organizations and universities are the force behind the eSPAN140 demonstration bridge project in Buchanan County, Iowa. Email Dan Snyder to get involved, or learn more about the project and the participating companies.  Read more about the project here.

Gerdau SSSB Nucor Fasner
nucor_200pxW Skyline smdi_175pxW
St Louis US Bridge
wvu wyoming  iowastateuniv
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Counting the Costs – In Missouri, Steel Bridge Saves 25 Percent over Concrete

For those who think that precast bridges are less expensive than steel bridges, think again!

In a cost comparison of two nearly identical short span bridges in Missouri, a bridge engineering consultant found that Steel Bridge 411 in AudrainCounty saved over 25 percent—with an overall 19.3 percent savings in the total cost of the structure—when compared with its precast twin, Concrete Bridge 336. The bridges were both built in 2012, have the same location and topography, with nearly identical roadway length and width, abutments, structural depth and guardrail systems. They even had the same local work crew.

Audrain County - Concrete    Audrain County - Steel

The unique aspect of this report is that a detailed side-by-side comparison of construction square footage costs from the beginning of design to the end of construction was put together, the first time that such an analysis of very similar concrete and steel structures had been conducted. The analysis was conducted by Missouri bridge engineering consultant John Mann, P.E. and Michael G. Barker, P.E., a professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Wyoming. All costs were considered, even the cost of using rented cranes.

The study also identified additional potential cost savings that could have saved Audrain County engineers even more, such as the use of simple, easy-to-install Geosynthetically Reinforced Soil (GRS) bridge abutments to handle lighter loads; elastomeric bearings; weathering or galvanized steel; accelerated bridge construction; and the free web-based steel bridge design tool eSPAN140.

What is the significance of this report for cost-conscious, time-constricted county engineers? Some prefer working with precast bridges because they think it saves money. But with this new information, plus the ability to design a short span steel bridge for free with the interactive design tool eSPAN140, steel becomes the better buy.

To read the full case study, click here.

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Funding vs. Fixing – Overcoming Budget Discrepancies for Locally Owned Bridges

An article in Governing Magazine (“Analysis: Disparity Exists in Condition of Local vs. State  Bridges,” by Mike Maciag, June 4, 2013) shares the results from a review of Federal Highway Administration inspection data comparing the conditions of local and state-owned bridges, revealing that: “…bridges under local jurisdiction are more than twice as likely to be considered structurally deficient, suffering from deterioration to the bridge deck, substructure or other major component.”

Counties are responsible for more than half of the United States’ nearly 67,000 structurally deficient bridges. Yet, local governments must typically rely on real estate taxes for general fund revenues, or obtain permission from state governments and taxpayers to levy taxes that fund transportation projects. Funding that comes from states and the federal government is not enough to fix this persistent problem.

The result is patched-up, aging bridges that pose unique challenges to county engineers such as Brian Keierleber, P.E., from Buchanan County, Iowa and Lee Bjerke, P.E., from Winneshiek County, Iowa:

Brian Keierleber, P.E.: “In Buchanan County, many of the pre-1950 bridges are less than 20 ft. wide, but modern combines now can be 22 ft. wide. There are some farm equipment manufacturers who cannot legally run on the roads with full-size loads, but there is no enforcement, so they do. Closing bridges is not the best answer – this just forces the loads to travel further and destroy more miles of road. We are experiencing failures, and they will continue.”

Lee Bjerke, P.E.: “In Winneshiek County, we have 330 bridges that are required to be reported in the NBI, or National Bridge Inventory, and approximately 100 more that are not. Of these structures, 85 are structurally deficient and 60 are functionally obsolete. Some of these structures date back to the 1800s and early 1900s! Almost all are narrow and were never designed to carry the weight of 80,000 lb. trucks or the 100,000+ lb. agricultural wagons of today.  

“If a bridge is predicted to last 75 years, we should be replacing 5.7 bridges per year to keep up.  We estimate that it would cost nearly $2 million annually to keep up with our bridge infrastructure, which will never happen, so we must resort to other options, such as railroad flat car bridges on low-volume roads, salvaging the beams on replaced bridges for reuse, or bridge closures for indefinite periods of time. These fixes do not meet current design standards. They serve as a stopgap, but don’t resolve issues of width, loading or height restriction. Winneshiek County has historically made maximum property tax transfers to the road fund allowed by the Iowa Code. The road/bridge funding trend is a downward spiral that is getting steeper in grade every year.”

Unfortunately, these situations are not unique. But there is a way to move ahead despite the challenges.

No Time, No Funding – What’s the Solution? For county engineers like Brian and Lee who are facing severe time and cost challenges, there’s a new steel solution that’s free to use and can produce a customized design in less than five minutes. The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance introduced an easy-to-use, web-based design tool called eSPAN140 that takes the data on an individual project and produces the most cost-effective steel solutions available, as well as the names, phone numbers and email addresses of manufacturers and fabricators who can provide pricing information and deliver the completed bridge to the site. Engineers can input as little information as the project’s length, width and number of striped traffic lanes. eSPAN140 can be used multiple times for additional projects. It’s available at

eSPAN140 offers viable steel design options that can ease the time and funding challenges. Get a preview of eSPAN140’s capabilities in the video at, then try it out. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain!

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Galvanized Steel Bridges Transcend Time

Churchill Bridge - June 2013 Blog PostThere are numerous benefits to hot-dip galvanizing steel bridge structures, but chief among them are durability and maintenance-free longevity. Hot-dip galvanizing is the process of immersing fabricated steel into a bath (kettle) of molten zinc. While in the galvanizing bath, the iron in the steel reacts with the zinc in the kettle to form a series of intermetallic layers, which are harder than the base steel. These tightly-bonded layers provide hot-dip galvanized steel with incredible abrasion resistance and durability.

Additionally, the intermetallic layers grow perpendicular to all surfaces of the steel, which means corners and edges have as much protection as flat surfaces, and all interior surfaces are also coated. The uniform, complete coverage ensures no areas of weakness for corrosion to begin, which leads to a long, maintenance-free life.

The durability and longevity of hot-dip galvanized steel will be on display for generations in projects such as the Churchill River Bridge in Goose Bay, Labrador, Newfoundland, Canada. The bridge was constructed in 2006 with more than 400 feet in three spans, making it the largest bridge in the Trans Labrador Highway. It required 2,000 tons of galvanized steel. The Bailey style, cantilever bridge was assembled on land and pulled over the river with special purpose machinery. Hot-dip galvanized steel can withstand not only the abrasiveness of this installation technique, but also the harsh environment of the Northern climate, where the construction and maintenance season is limited to only three months. Thanks to hot-dip galvanizing, the Churchill River Bridge will complement the natural environment and surroundings while providing effective, maintenance-free corrosion protection for decades to come.

Note: This blog was submitted by Melissa Lindsley at the American Galvanizers Association.

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New Press-Brake Tub Girder Steel Bridge Design Being Tested

In October 2011, some of the best brains in the business met in Chicago to discuss specific steel bridge system designs for the future, with a focus on economical value, innovation, and Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) practices. The group chose a promising shallow steel press-brake tub girder technology and gave the go-ahead to begin research on developing and testing the design.

The system consists of modular galvanized shallow trapezoidal boxes fabricated from cold-bent structural steel plate. The concrete deck is precast on the girder and the modular unit will be shipped by truck to the bridge site.

What are the economical benefits? They include:

  • A significant reduction in fabrication costs — estimated as less than half the cost of other currently available proprietary cold-formed box girder systems — due to cold-bending versus cutting and welding of the section.
  • A reduction in additional details such as stiffeners and cross frames.
  • The potential for accelerated on-site construction due to the stable modular nature of the pre-topped tub girders.
  • The ability to be used for both tangent and skewed configurations as well as simple and continuous spans.

The preliminary specimen design has been completed, resulting in modular concepts that are competitive for spans up to 60 feet. The project is now ready to begin the physical testing phase, which will determine the ultimate capacity of the systems and will serve to benchmark analytical studies.

The testing will consist of eight press-brake tub girder specimens. Nucor Corporation, SSAB Americas, and EVRAZ North America have each donated 84” x 7/16” x 480” Grade 50 steel plates, which will be cold-bent to specific dimensions. The specimens will be constructed and tested in three-point bending loading scenarios under both static and cyclic loading in the Major Structures Lab at West Virginia University. See video of the bent-plate folding process below. The testing phase of the project will be completed in early 2014.

The state of Iowa has received an Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment Program grant (IBRD) from the Federal Highway Administration to replace the Amish Sawmill Bridge on Dillon Avenue in Buchanan with this system. Construction on the bridge will begin this summer. The states of Missouri, Oregon, and West Virginia have also expressed interest in pursuing demonstration projects for this system, with the expectation that these modular systems may be competitive for longer-span lengths.

For more information on this and other short span steel bridge design innovations, click here.

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Managing Dollars and Sense in Spite of Difficult Bridge Design Challenges

How does a county engineer keep his projects moving forward while managing his budget and maintaining his sanity in today’s transportation/infrastructure environment?

Take the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, a lift bridge connecting New Hampshire and Maine. At 73 years old, the Long Bridge was shut down in January after its center span got stuck during a routine test. But that isn’t the biggest problem – it’s the corroding floor beams and supports. The replacement bridge is scheduled for completion in 2017, but there’s a hitch—the current bridge may not last that long. Even though it’s the top red-listed bridge in New Hampshire, the funding for renovations is not yet in place. The need is obvious, but the funding isn’t there. This story, printed in “The Portland Press-Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram” on February 4, 2013, is, unfortunately, more the rule than the exception.

In Iowa, Buchanan County Engineer Brian Keierleber, P.E. talks about the scope of bridge repair challenges he faces. “I have to replace a bridge from 1870, one from 1872, and one from 1875,” he says. “General Custer fought the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876! I’m working on bridges that predate the Model T!” But Brian has a big problem in that his 19th century bridges are facing 21st century demands, such as modern combines that measure 22 feet wide but must cross bridges that are 20 feet wide. This places extra strain on structures that should have been replaced years ago. With a huge gap between need and funding resources, Brian surmises that eventually “economics will dictate that the rural road system must be brought to more modern standards, which begins with building modern bridges.”

The SSSBA is helping to turn that eventually into now with a new, easy-to-use, web-based design tool called eSPAN140. Engineers (or non-engineers) can obtain cost-effective designs for short span steel bridges in five minutes or less in just three easy steps. The only data required is the project’s length, width and number of striped traffic lanes. eSPAN140 prints out a Steel Solutions book that’s tailor-made for the project and includes the names/phone numbers/emails of manufacturers and fabricators who can provide pricing information and deliver the completed bridge to the site. And the best news of all – eSPAN140 is FREE to use and can be used multiple times for additional projects. It was developed by the steel bridge industry, with more than 30 organizations collaborating on the project.

County engineers (and non-engineers) have everything to gain and nothing to lose with eSPAN140. Try it today.

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FHWA Awards IBRD Grant to Construct Steel Bridge in Iowa

The Amish Sawmill Bridge on Dillon Avenue in Buchanan, Iowa, is about to get a new look and a lot of attention from the bridge design community, the steel industry and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Buchanan County Engineer Brian Keierleber submitted a proposal to replace the bridge with funding from the FHWA’s Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment (IBRD) program. The $350,000 grant was awarded on the basis of using a trapezoidal bent steel girder section supported on Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS), technology endorsed by the members of the Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) Modular Steel Bridge Technical Working Group.*

The project will include the construction of GRS abutments with a sheetpiling face and the placement of trapezoidal bent plate beams on the GRS abutments. Stay-in-place forms will be utilized prior to casting a deck in place. The project will meet the stated goals of the IBRD program and the Every Day Counts” initiative.

With construction slated to begin in June 2013, this project will prove of particular interest to researchers at West Virginia University who are currently testing shallow steel press-brake tub girders to obtain data on the ultimate capacity of this system. The Amish Sawmill Bridge project will provide an opportunity to conduct field testing on the bent plate system in order to validate design assumptions and evaluate performance over the long term.

The payout for bridge designers, the steel industry and the FHWA is an economical, innovative new system that could significantly impact future best design practices.

* The members of the Modular Steel Bridge Technical Working Group include representatives from the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance, Steel Market Development Institute, National Steel Bridge Alliance, National Association of County Engineers, steel bridge fabricators, university faculty members, steel manufacturers, government organizations and bridge owners.

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A Short Span Steel Bridge Saves a Local Community

According to the American Society for Civil Engineers, more than 26% (one in four) of the nation’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete (see  Over half of these bridges are in rural locations, and essential to the lifeline of many small towns throughout the United States.

These short span bridges (typically 140 feet or less) connected families with their family, community, local businesses, and emergency essentials.  In some locations, one bridge out of service can disrupt an entire community.  This is exactly what happened in Mt. Olive Township, N.J.

An article that appeared in RAI Magazine (June 2012)  detailed how Hurricane Irene washed away a local bridge in 2011, causing not only logistical problems, but also an emergency medical situation. A family with a special needs child required regular medical care – they relied on the bridge for access to a local medical facility.  Thanks to the assistance of a local steel bridge fabricator, a 30-foot-long by 12-foot-wide, simple steel beam bridge designed to carry HS20 loads, was quickly installed.

Short span steel bridges have been used to connect communities for over a century.  Steel bridges can be quickly fabricated and installed which saves communities, such as Mt. Olive, time and money and in some cases, fast access to emergency services.

The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance recently made it very easy to develop — at no cost — designs, standards, and prefabricated solutions for crossing uneSPAN140der 140 feet through the development of eSPAN140.  In 3 simple steps, a bridge owner or designer can get the information needed to design a short span steel bridge or culvert.

Here’s a short video about eSPAN140.

Brian P. Keierleber, P.E., County Engineer, Buchanan County Iowa, says that eSpan140 has provided him with a fast and cost-effective way to a professionally rendered short span steel bridge design. “I have confidence in these designs and details as they were developed by university researchers who are national experts in bridge design and construction.” The payoff for Keierleber? “After I put in my specific bridge information, I get a design that I can take to a fabricator.  This saves time for me and precious funds for our county.  It is one more tool in the tool box providing for economical options.”

Go to to set up a free account. It’s your first step to start on a short span steel bridge design.

Posted in Accelerated Bridge Design and Construction, Bridge Design Economics, eSPAN140, short span bridge design tools, Short Span Bridges, Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment