BRIDGE DESIGN GO. General Economic Considerations. The prime considera tion which influences the decision to build is cost. After the decision to build has been made, the problem is one of a purely engineering character, whereas in the first case it was one of either a political or an engineering character, or both. The engineering problem is an economic one, in which maximum benefits must be obtained at a minimum cost.
A map of the proposed bridge site and the approaches, as well as of the country for a considerable distance up and down stream, should be made. This map should show the contours, the soundings, the borings, the high and low water-mark elevations, and the excep tional flood line. On this map the bridge should be plotted in its proposed location and also in various others. In the case of each of these locations, various schemes taking into account different numbers of piers and spans should be considered.
Several authors have attempted to present formule having a more or less theoretical derivation and purporting to indicate the correct number of piers and spans for a minimum cost. The use of these formulae should not be encouraged, since they do not in any case give results close enough to serve for anything but a rough guide.
The cost of abutments will vary somewhat with the location and the character of the approach. This variation is usually small, and ordinarily an approximate location of the abutments can be quickly made. As the number of abutments is in all cases constant, their effect upon the problem of the location of the bridge is small, the main proposition being that of the cost and the number of piers and spans.
The cost of the piers will usually not be constant, those closer to the middle of the stream costing more on account of the depth of the water and the more difficult character of the foundation. Piers should not be placed on a skew; neither should they be placed directly in the maximum line of action of the current. If a skew is unavoid able, it should be as small as possible. The cost of piers should be ascertained by the most careful estimates. In the case of small bridges where there are only one or two piers, the matter is very simple, but with a considerable number of piers the problem becomes very complicated and requires weeks and sometimes months or years for its solution.
The determination of the cost of the superstructure is a com paratively simple matter. In certain instances the class of bridge is limited to some extent by the specifications. Cooper, in Article 2 of his "Specifications for Steel Railroad Bridges and Viaducts" (edition of 1906), gives the following: One railroad expresses a preference for plate-girders for all spans from 20 to 115 feet; and for spans from there to 150 feet, riveted trusses.
The question as to whether the bridge will be deck or through is one which is decided by the controlling influences of waterway, false work, time of erection, and extra cost of masonry. If the clear height required for the water-way is sufficiently small, the deck bridge should be chosen, as in this class the cost of false work is less, the time of erection is less, and the cost of masonry is less by an amount equal to the cross-section of the piers times the depth of the truss. Deck bridges also cost less than through bridges of equal span.
The conditions permitting, girders should be used in preference to trusses. While for equal spans girders are heavier and therefore cost more, the steel work alone being considered, little or no false work is required, and the time of erection is much less than in the case of trusses. This makes the total cost of girder bridges less than those in which trusses are used. Another item in favor of girders is their great stiffness.
While pin-connected bridges cost less and are easier to erect, their stiffness is not so great as that of riveted bridges, which cost more. The time required for the erection of riveted bridges is also greater than that for pin-connected bridges. This is on account of the great amount of time required to make the riveted connections. For long spans, say over 200 feet, it is necessary to use pin-connected bridges, as the extreme size of the connection plates prohibits the use of the riveted type. Also, it is unnecessary to use riveted long-span trusses to obtain stiffness, as the weight of the pin-connected bridges is so great when compared with the live load that sufficient stiffness is obtained.