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What are the five main bridge designs?

Bridge infrastructure has multiple roles; they’re used to cross oceans and rivers, transport pedestrians and cars, and connect two parcels or lands or cities. Their size and shape will dictate their function.
Below are the five main bridge designs and information on how each design fit’s a specific function in our infrastructure.

Five main types of Bridges

  • Beam Bridges
  • Integral Beam Bridges
  • Cantilever Bridges
  • Arch Bridges
  • Cable-stayed Bridges

Beam Bridge Design

Beam Bridges

A beam bridge is one of the simplest and most cost-effective bridges to build. Beam bridges are the most popular type of bridge construction in the UK due to their simplicity in design. In addition, they can often be referred to as a ‘simply supported’ structure, as there is no transfer of stress you see in other types of bridge construction.


Integral Beam Bridges

Integral beam bridges are a modern design approach to the traditional beam bridges that incorporate bridge bearings and expansion joints. The developments in construction methods and prefabricated beam design have enabled the removal of maintenance issues surrounding bridge bearings and expansion joints. The substructure and superstructure of an Integral bridge beam act as a single structural unit that works well for short to medium span bridges.
Take a look at ECL’s recently constructed Integral beam bridge.

Cantilever Bridge Design

Cantilever Bridges

A cantilever bridge is built using cantilevers, structures that project horizontally and are supported on one end only. This type of bridge can be used for pedestrians, trains, and motor vehicles. Cantilevers are especially useful for spanning a waterway without dividing it with river piers; the benefits are:-

  • The river channel remains unblocked.
  • Boat traffic can travel under the bridge.
  • Reduces the risk of bridge failure in a flood situation.

Arch Bridge Design

Arch Bridge

An arch bridge has abutments at each end shaped as a curved arch. Its semi-circular structure works by transferring the weight of the bridge and its loads onto the two abutments. The natural curve of the arch and its ability to disperse the force outward significantly decreases the effects of tension on the underside of the arch. These bridges were introduced by the Romans and are still popular today, being used for anything from pedestrians to heavy rail bridges. The negative to this type of bridge construction is the small spans and slow construction process.

Cable Stay Bridge Design

Cable-stayed Bridge

A cable-stayed bridge is dependent upon towers/pylons, which are the load-bearing element of the structure. Cables are connected from the pylons to the deck below. Either directly from the top of the tower or at different points of the column. Most people associate this feature with cable-stayed bridges. This type of bridge structure is used for larger spans that can’t be achieved with a cantilever bridge design but less than a suspension bridge. One of the main issues with this type of bridge is that the central connection of the cables can place horizontal force on the deck. Because of this, the deck structure has to be reinforced to withstand ongoing forces.

If you have a technical enquiry or require support on your bridge infrastructure project, please get in touch today and see how ECL can help.

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