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Integral Bridges (No. 2 Dec-96)

Expansion joints on bridges have provided severe maintenance problems for bridge authorities throughout the world due to penetration of water and de-icing salts through movement joints. This has led to “integral bridges” becoming more widespread as engineers seek ways of avoiding these problems. “Integral Bridges” are bridges which are constructed without any movement joints between spans or between spans and abutments. The road surfaces are continuous from one approach embankment to the other. Foundations are designed to be small and flexible to facilitate horizontal movement or rocking of the support. The residual longitudinal movement between the end of the run-on-slab and the pavement is absorbed by yielding of the asphalt pavement, possibly with a plug joint requiring low-cost maintenance. “Integral Bridges” present a challenge for load distribution calculations because the bridge deck, piers, abutments, embankments and ground must all be considered as a single compliant system. Computer methods for load distribution are potentially very useful because of the ease with which one can investigate the possible range of behaviour that corresponds to the possible range of stiffnesses.

However, the increasing popularity of integral bridges is a result of their successful performance rather than appropriate calculations. Integral bridges have been used widely in the U.S.A. and Canada and valuable information on the experience of bridge engineers from these countries is contained in a series of reports publishing the results of the American National Co-operative Highway Research Program. The Highways Agency in the UK in their latest Departmental Standard, BD57, “Design for Durability”, requires designers to consider designing all bridges with lengths of up to 60 metres and skews less than 300 as integral bridges.

Dermot Rooney
Rooney Associates

An integral bridge designed by Rooney Associates has been constructed on the Balbriggan By-Pass.

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