Different types of bridges

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Bridges play a crucial role in modern infrastructure, connecting communities and facilitating the flow of goods, services, and people. They are a testament to human ingenuity, embodying our ability to overcome obstacles and connect distant lands. Bridges are an important infrastructure because they allow people to cross waterways, canyons, and other obstacles easily and safely, which would otherwise be difficult or impossible to navigate.

Bridges are critical links in transportation networks, connecting roads, highways, and railway systems, helping reduce traffic congestion and improve travel time. In addition, they help to spur economic growth by enabling the efficient movement of goods and people and facilitating the development of new business and residential areas. Whether a simple footbridge over a creek or a massive suspension bridge spanning a bay, the different types of bridges play an integral role in shaping our world and supporting the growth and prosperity of our communities.

See also: Cable-stayed bridges: A masterpiece of engineering and design

 

Components of a bridge

Bridges are complex structures designed to span physical obstacles such as a river, road, or railway and provide a safe and reliable passage for people, vehicles, and other forms of transportation. Bridges can be made up of several components, including:

  • Deck: The deck is the roadway or walkway that provides a surface for vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists to cross the bridge.
  • Abutments: Abutments are the solid structures at either end of a bridge that supports the deck and transfers its weight to the ground.
  • Piers: Piers are vertical structures that support the bridge deck and are positioned between the abutments.
  • Bearings: Bearings are devices that allow the bridge deck and piers to move vertically and horizontally, absorbing the stress of changes in temperature, traffic loads, and wind.
  • Expansion joints: These are placed between sections of the bridge deck to allow for expansion and contraction due to temperature changes.
  • Stringers: Stringers are long structural members that run parallel to the bridge deck and support it.
  • Guardrails: Guardrails are barriers that run along the sides of the bridge deck to prevent vehicles or pedestrians from falling off the edge.
  • Sidewalks: Sidewalks are walkways on the sides of the bridge deck for pedestrians.
  • Lighting: Bridges often have lighting systems for safety and aesthetics.

These components vary in design and construction depending on the type of bridge, such as a suspension bridge, a cable-stayed bridge, or a truss bridge.

see also about: cable stayed bridge

Types of bridges

Bridges are built to provide passage over obstacles such as rivers, valleys, or roads. There are many types of bridges, each with a unique design and purpose. Here is an overview of some of the most common types of bridges:

 

Beam bridge

Different types of bridges, components, advantages and disadvantages

Source: Pinterest

 

It is the simplest type of bridge and consists of a horizontal beam supported by two piers. It is typically used for short spans and is unsuitable for larger spans or heavy loads.

Example: The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is a famous beam bridge.

Advantages: Beam bridges are easy to construct, inexpensive, and simple to maintain.

Disadvantages: They need to improve their ability to span large distances and may need to be stronger to carry heavy loads.

 

Arch bridge

Different types of bridges, components, advantages and disadvantages

Source: Pinterest

 

An arch bridge uses an arch-shaped structure to span a river or road. The bridge’s weight and load are transferred to the abutments at either end, making it a strong and durable design. 

Example: The Roman aqueducts are some of the most famous arch bridges in the world.

Advantages: Arch bridges are strong and durable, able to withstand heavy loads and seismic activity.

Disadvantages: They are more complex and difficult to build, requiring specialised skills and materials.

Tied Arch bridge

It uses features of both a suspension bridge and an arched bridge. However, in this the arch is placed above the deck. It is supported by vertical cables. The tension of the vertical cables help keep the bridge stable.

Tied Bridge

Source: Pinterest (Civil wale)

Advantages:

  • Strong
  • Can be built somewhere and assembled on site.

Disadvantages

  • If one arch breaks, the structure becomes weak.

Suspension bridge

Different types of bridges, components, advantages and disadvantages

Source: Pinterest

 

A suspension bridge uses cables to support a roadway suspended from towers. The cables are anchored to abutments at either end, and the roadway is suspended from the cables by vertical suspenders. Suspension bridges are commonly used to span large distances, such as rivers or bays.

Example: The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan is the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Advantages: Suspension bridges can span long distances and carry heavy loads. They are also very flexible and able to withstand strong winds and earthquakes.

Disadvantages: Suspension bridges are expensive to build and maintain, and their cables can be vulnerable to corrosion and damage from extreme weather conditions.

 

Cable-stayed bridge

Different types of bridges, components, advantages and disadvantages

Source: Pinterest

 

A suspension bridge resembles a cable-stayed bridge. Still, instead of suspending the roadway from cables anchored to abutments, the cables are attached directly to one or more towers.

Example: The Sutong Bridge in China is one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world.

Advantages: Cable-stayed bridges are strong, flexible, and span long distances. In addition, building and maintaining them is not too expensive.

Disadvantages: Cable-stayed bridges can be vulnerable to corrosion and damage from extreme weather conditions and may not be strong enough to carry heavy loads.

 

Truss bridge

Different types of bridges, components, advantages and disadvantages

Source: Pinterest

 

A truss bridge uses a truss, or a series of interconnected triangles, to support the roadway. The truss comprises steel or concrete members and is designed to resist bending and compression. Truss bridges are commonly used for medium- to long-span bridges.

Example: The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is a famous truss bridge.

Advantages: Truss bridges are very strong and can span long distances. They are also lightweight, making them less expensive to build and maintain.

Disadvantages: Truss bridges are complex and difficult to build, and they can be vulnerable to corrosion and damage from extreme weather conditions.

 

Cantilever bridges

Different types of bridges, components, advantages and disadvantages

Source: Pinterest

 

A cantilever bridge is built using cantilevers, structures that extend horizontally into space and are supported on only one end. These bridges have two large arms that extend from piers at either end of the bridge toward each other. When the two cantilever arms meet in the centre of the bridge, they are connected with a beam, creating a continuous structure.

Example: The Forth Bridge in Scotland.

Advantages: Cantilever Bridges can span large distances without intermediate supports. They also can be built in stages, making construction easier and more efficient.

Disadvantages: Cantilever Bridges are complex and difficult to construct. Also, require strong and sturdy foundations to support the cantilever arms. They are more expensive than other bridge types.

 

Tied-arch bridges

Different types of bridges, components, advantages and disadvantages

Source: Pinterest

 

A tied-arch bridge is a type of bridge in which an arch is used to support the deck, with cables or rods connecting the arch to the ground or towers on either side. The arch provides vertical support to the deck, while the cables or rods provide horizontal stability.

Example: The Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.

Advantages: Tied-arch bridges include their ability to span large distances, aesthetic appeal, and stability against wind and earthquakes.

Disadvantages: Tied-Arch Bridges are complex, difficult to construct, and more expensive than other bridges. They require strong and sturdy foundations to support the arch.

These are just a few examples of the many types of bridges. Each type of bridge has unique strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of bridge design will depend on factors such as the span length, location, and intended use.

 

Different types of bridges based on function

Based on their function and purpose, bridges can also be categorised into the following types. 

Aqueduct/viaduct bridge

An aqueduct, derived from the Latin term meaning ‘water bridge’, was used by the Romans to transport water from one location to another. These arched structures served as water bridges. On the other hand, a viaduct is a raised roadway that spans a long distance, supported by a series of arches.

Culvert

Although not classified as bridges, culverts share similarities with them. These simple structures, often surrounded by soil or fill, allow water to flow beneath roads, trails or rail lines instead of crossing over them. While most culverts are constructed using concrete, some are made of basic corrugated pipes.

Double-decked bridge

Double-decked bridges are designed to accommodate increased traffic flow in densely populated areas. The upper deck features six lanes in each direction for freeway traffic, along with pedestrian footpaths and sightseeing areas. The lower deck carries four additional local motor vehicle lanes, two lanes for non-motorized vehicles, and two pedestrian walkways.

Pedestrian bridge

Pedestrian bridges, also known as footbridges, are simple structures that allow individuals to cross canyons, streams, or roadways. They are typically wide enough for one or two people to walk side-by-side. Early bridges consisted of stepping stones or fallen trees. This category also includes swinging bridges and boardwalks that traverse lower, marshy or sandy terrain.

Pipeline bridge

Pipeline bridge

Pipeline bridges are specifically built to support gas or liquid pipelines. These bridges are constructed in areas where it is not feasible to lay the pipeline under a river or other obstacles. Suspension bridges are often employed for this purpose.

 

Train bridge

Truss bridges gained prominence during the 19th century when railroads were the primary means of transportation. Consequently, many truss bridges were constructed to carry rail lines. Trestle bridges, another type of train bridge, consist of multiple short beams connected end-to-end and supported by closely spaced frames, often made of wood, to span long distances.

 

Vehicle traffic bridge

A vehicle traffic bridge is designed to accommodate the passage of at least one vehicle in a single direction. Typically, these bridges feature multiple lanes to accommodate opposing traffic flow. They are built to be wide and sturdy to ensure the safe traversal of vehicles.

FAQs

What are the different types of bridges?

Several bridges include beam bridges, arch bridges, truss bridges, suspension bridges, cantilever bridges, and cable-stayed bridges.

How does the maintenance of a bridge take place?

Maintenance of a bridge includes regular inspections, cleaning, painting, and repairing any damaged components. It includes checking for rust, cracks, corrosion, and wear and tear. If necessary, repairs and replacements are made to ensure the safety and longevity of the bridge.

What are the advantages of bridges?

Bridges allow for safe and efficient travel over water, valleys, and other obstacles. They can reduce travel time, improve transportation options and provide access to previously inaccessible areas.

What are the adverse effects of bridges?

Bridges can have a negative impact on wildlife and their habitats, and disrupt views and scenic landscapes. Bridge construction and maintenance can be costly, Moreover, bridges can become congested and lead to traffic problems.

Got any questions or point of view on our article? We would love to hear from you.

Write to our Editor-in-Chief Jhumur Ghosh at jhumur.ghosh1@housing.com

 

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