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What is a Concrete Bridge?

Charity Delich
Charity Delich

A concrete bridge is a structure made from concrete and built for the purpose of covering a certain distance. Typically, concrete bridges allow vehicles or people to cross over physical obstructions, such as lakes, rivers, valleys, or roads. Concrete is one of the most common types of materials used in modern-day bridge construction.

Building a bridge out of concrete can have many advantages. Generally, concrete is a highly versatile substance because it can withstand a wide variety of climates. It can be mixed in a way that gives it the ability to resist extreme temperature fluctuations as well as corrosive chemicals. As a result, a concrete bridge functions well in most regions of the world. Concrete is also a flexible material, allowing an engineer to be creative when planning the aesthetic attributes of a concrete bridge design project.

The Mike O.
The Mike O.

Concrete is typically more durable than other types of materials, such as steel or timber. In fact, some types of concrete can last for up to 100 years. Because of this, concrete bridges are often lower maintenance than other kinds of bridges with fewer overall upkeep costs. The cost of initial construction is also frequently lower with concrete than with other types of materials.

A prestressed concrete bridge is a type of concrete bridge that has gained popularity since the late 1940’s. It is particularly useful in lengthening a bridge’s span capability. Essentially, prestressed concrete is designed to counteract limitations associated with creating tension in concrete. Prestressed concrete bridges typically contain reinforcement bars made out of substances like steel cables or rods that are fitted inside the poured concrete. These bars help counteract stress that the bridge would otherwise realize.

Concrete is one of the most widely-used materials in current arch bridge design. A concrete arch bridge consists of a structure with a curved arch, which serves as the main support mechanism. In addition, an arch bridge usually contains two abutments, which are placed at each end of the curved arch. Contemporary concrete arch bridges are usually constructed from reinforced concrete, which contains steel reinforcement bars.

A specialized type of concrete, known as high-performance concrete, can be used when constructing a concrete bridge. High-performance concrete is designed to exceed the performance of regular concrete. It ordinarily has a water-cement material ratio of about 0.40 or less, although this number can vary depending on the type of bridge being built. The location for the bridge also influences high-performance concrete mix proportions because temperature and other factors require changing the water-cement ratio.

Discussion Comments


I have often noticed what looks like hinges holding a concrete bridge together at certain intervals. When I was little, I went over a bridge that spanned a bay. It actually could split in half and lift up to let boats pass underneath.

For years after that, whenever I saw those hinges in a bridge, I got scared that the bridge could open up at any moment for a boat. Now, I understand that these hinges are for adjusting the level of tension. So, I feel protected by them, rather than being afraid that they will swallow up my car!


I often drive over a high concrete bridge with arch supports beneath it. This bridge spans over a street, a forest, and several houses way below, and the height is dizzying.

It is so high that someone saw the need to place signs at either end of it with the number of a suicide hotline and the words, “There is always hope,” written in big letters. I find it hard to believe that anyone would have the courage, if that's what you call it, to jump from this bridge.

It has to be super strong, because in addition to being so high up, it is also pretty long. I am glad it is made of concrete every time I drive over it, and I try not to look down.


My personal experience with a concrete bridge is on a small scale. We have a small creek that runs through our property and needed a way to get across the creek.

My uncle who is very handy said he would build a wooden bridge for us. We thought this was a great idea, and I loved the idea of a wooden bridge.

The only thing was, it didn't last very long. Between the elements of the weather and animals in the timber, it needed to be replaced after several years.

We needed something that would last longer, so decided to have a small concrete bridge built. This same uncle has worked with concrete for many years, so he formed up a concrete bridge from one side of the creek to the other.

Even though I don't like the look of the concrete nearly as well as the wooden bridge, it is much sturdier and will last long past our lifetime.

This was nothing compared to the huge concrete bridge deck designs that are used for bridges on the roadways, but still got the job done just the same.


My husband works for a company that builds bridges, so I am very familiar with concrete bridges and the terminology that goes a long with them.

Before meeting him, I didn't have much interest in concrete walls, bridge beams, abutments and steel reinforcements. Many of the terms I had never even heard of before, and now it is common talk around our house.

Many times when they have to repair a concrete bridge, it is not so much the concrete that is bad as the structure holding up the concrete.

Even though concrete is one of the most economical materials used to build a bridge, some of the concrete bills his company receives would surprise you.

There is a lot of square feet of concrete that is used for big bridges, and the dollar amounts add up pretty quickly.

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    • The Mike O.
      By: Andy
      The Mike O.