Steel is a versatile material that has been used to build bridges for over a century. They are ideal for several applications due to their durability, sturdiness, and reliability and are commonly used for road and railway projects. Moreover, they offer many benefits, including high strength-to-weight ratios, long spans, and various design options.

This post will review some of the most significant factors to consider while constructing a steel bridge.

Factors To Consider When Designing Steel Bridges

The following are the things to keep in mind when designing structural steel bridges:

Loads and Load Combinations

Loads are the forces that act on a bridge. Live loads are vehicles and other moving loads, while dead loads are the bridge structure. On the other hand, wind, seismic, and temperature loads are environmental loads. These combinations must be considered during the design process to ensure the bridge can safely handle them.

Structural Analysis

Structural analysis determines the behavior and performance of a bridge under various loads and load combinations. It considers different factors, including the structural system, material properties, geometric dimensions, and boundary conditions.


Redundancy involves providing additional structural members or elements to maintain the bridge’s integrity, even if one or more parts fail. Thus, a redundant design ensures the bridge’s safety, even in unforeseen events.

Limit State

Limit states are the conditions beyond which a structure can no longer perform its intended function. The limit-state design approach aims to prevent these conditions by ensuring the structure remains within safe limits under all loading conditions.

Design for Constructability

A well-designed bridge should consider constructability, reducing the complexity of the construction process and ensuring that it can be completed within budget and on time.

Design for Fatigue

Structural steel bridge designers must consider fatigue, especially for high-traffic bridges. Fatigue occurs when a material weakens and fails after repeated loading and unloading cycles.

Substructure Design

Substructure design refers to the bridge’s supporting components, such as piers, abutments, and foundations. It must maintain these components and maintain the bridge’s weight and load.

Splice Design

Splices are critical components of steel bridges, joining individual steel members together to create the overall bridge structure. It will ensure the connection is strong enough to resist various loads and combinations.

Bearing Design

Bearing design is essential in steel bridges, as it supports the bridge’s superstructure and transfers loads to the substructure. It must consider the loads the bridge will carry, the type of bridge, and its location. The most common types of bearings used in steel bridges are as follows:

  • Elastomeric bearings: commonly used in short and medium-span bridges
  • Pot bearings: preferred for long-span bridges
  • Spherical bearings: mostly used in curved bridges

The bearing design must also consider the bridge’s movement due to expansion and contraction caused by temperature changes.

Bridge Deck Design

A bridge deck is critical in structural steel bridge design because it carries traffic loads and provides a stable surface for vehicles. In addition, it must consider factors such as the type of deck material used to ensure safety and longevity.

Load Rating

The bridge’s strength and safety depend on its ability to carry loads and withstand forces, and a bridge’s load rating determines its maximum load-carrying capacity. Thus, it calculates the safe weight limit for vehicles and other loads crossing the bridge.

Corrosion Protection

Moisture, salt, and chemicals can corrode steel bridges over time. Therefore, steel bridges must be designed and built with corrosion protection in mind to ensure their long-term durability, safety, and sustainability.

Build Durable Bridges With High-Quality Steel From Infra-Metals!

As one of the biggest steel service centers in the US, Infra-Metals offers an extensive selection of products and services to meet your needs. Our centers are designed to cater to each region’s unique demands. We are committed to delivering high-quality services that are both efficient and cost-effective!

Contact us or request a quote today for your next steel bridge project.