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    Designing Bridge Decks to Match Bridge Life Expectancy

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    The easiest purchasing policy to enforce is least first cost. Under TQM (total quality management), the new mandate is to obtain least life cycle cost.

    Experience with highway bridge construction in the United States is that the usable life of the bridge deck is only one half of the useful life of the bridge. The average age of bridges when replaced is 68 years, and the average length of service of bridge decks before replacement is 35 years.

    Bridge deck replacement during the service life of the bridge is much more costly than a new deck on a new bridge, due primarily to the requirements of traffic maintenance during the construction phase of bridge rehabilitation projects.

    Estimation of the cost of construction of design options for life cycle and serviceability, although extremely difficult to document objectively, must now be accomplished. New public policy has enunciated the importance of determining relative life cycle costs.

    Estimated bridge costs in the 1950s were $20 to $40 per square foot. Estimates of bridge rehabilitation cost in the 1990s will be $70 to $200 per square foot.

    This paper reviews various bridge deck construction methods and the theoretical and historical comparisons which may be observed. A discussion of how design, construction, and service considerations impact life cycle cost and serviceability is included for several types of bridge deck.

    In his conclusions and recommendations, the author proposes guidelines for comparing available bridge deck types. The discussion includes checklists of specific project needs, whether new or rehabilitation designs, to meet the objective of matching bridge and deck useful life.


    bridge decks, evaluation of bridge deck life expectancy, useful life of bridge decks, prefabricated bridge decks

    Author Information:

    Bettigole, NH
    Consultant, Old Tappan, NJ

    Committee/Subcommittee: D04.36

    DOI: 10.1520/STP14542S