Infrastructure is a hot topic across the United States no matter what party line you fall upon. Many of America’s roads, bridges, airports, waterways, and wastewater systems that have been in place for decades are in need of replacement, repair, or even new construction. Structural stainless steel has been very popular in corrosive environments such as wastewater but it also has some distinct advantages over other metals in the construction of bridges.
Bridges across America
There are many types of bridges in the US made from materials such as steel, concrete, timber and more. Across America, one can find the full spectrum of bridges from small pedestrian platforms to massive suspension bridges. No matter the type, bridges are a critical component of our country’s infrastructure. A recent study from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found that more than 200,000 US bridges are in need of major repair or replacement. This number accounts for over 30% of all bridges in the US. Additionally, there are almost 300,000 bridges marked as “fair condition”, meaning they will soon fall into the category of repair or replacement. This is an alarming number and illustrates why fixing our nation’s bridges as part of the infrastructure plan is so imperative.
Stainless Steel in Bridges
The cost of infrastructure is not cheap. The current bill before congress calls for dollar amounts in the billions. That is because infrastructure is the key to economic growth, prosperity and well-being. As engineers and contractors look at bridge construction, it is important that they build resiliency into their designs and realize that sustainability is the primary key.
While stainless steel may be a higher initial cost over other materials, it brings a significant savings in overall life cycle value. Certain alloys of stainless steel will last hundreds of years with minimal maintenance. Many carbon steel bridges require components to be replaced every 10 to 20 years. Carbon profiles also have to have protective coatings or paint applied every few years. These replacements and repairs add up to significant cost over time. Comparatively, these expenditures are eliminated with stainless as no coatings or material replacement is required. Stainless steel produces its own protective film which provides a protective barrier to corrosive elements.
There are many advantages to using stainless steel in bridges. Firstly, it has a very high strength-to-weight ratio which increases design flexibility and decreases costs. For modern bridgework requiring stainless steel, duplex has become the material of choice. The most common grades used are 2101, 2205 and 2304. Duplex is a higher strength grade of stainless with excellence corrosion resistance and formability. By using duplex, one can reduce the overall weight of the substructures, thus creating a significant cost savings. Duplex is the most durable and cost effective option for stainless steel in bridges.
Structural Stainless Steel and More
Stainless Structurals America is the only producer in the western hemisphere of stainless steel structural shapes and profiles. We stock and produce a vast array of wide flange beams used in bridge girders along with channels, angles, tees, tube and more. All of our profiles are available in most stainless alloys including the duplex stainless steel used in bridges. Modern bridge design calls for sustainability and there is no better product than stainless steel. Contact us today for more information on how structural stainless steel can shape the future of infrastructure.