Cost-competitive Timber Bridge Designs for Long Term Performance

Principal Investigator(s):

Donald Fosnacht, Former Associate Director, UMD-NRRI

Project summary:

Modern timber bridges have shown that timber is a durable option for primary structural members in highway bridges and can perform satisfactorily for 50 years or longer when properly designed, fabricated, and maintained. However, various cost assumptions have indicated that timber bridges are more expensive than concrete bridges. This project was undertaken to better understand the benefits and costs of using timber bridges as a viable substitute for other bridge construction materials and designs. Two demonstration construction projects were completed to develop comparative information. A steel girder with a transverse glulam deck bridge with a curbless, crash-tested railing system was built, and a spike-laminated longitudinal deck bridge was constructed. Both projects were completed and allowed for a good comparison to be developed both in terms of project-specific cost and the time required for bridge construction completion. These projects showed that the main advantage of a timber bridge is the speed of superstructure construction with the other costs similar to that of other materials. It is clear from previous case studies, interviews with engineers, contractors, and suppliers, and the projects that timber superstructures can be installed within days to weeks, compared to months for other materials.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2016038
  • Start date: 12/2015
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Infrastructure
  • Topics: Bridge design and sensing