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Lecture 15B.7: Arch Bridges
OBJECTIVE/SCOPE To introduce the design of arch bridges for railways and highways. PREREQUISITES None RELATED LECTURES Lecture 15B.1: Conceptual Choice Lecture 15B.2: Actions on Bridges Lecture 15B.3: Bridge Decks Lecture 15B.10: Bridge Equipment Lecture 15B.12: Introduction to Bridge Construction SUMMARY The principal types of arch bridge are described, highlighting both their differences and similarities. A discussion of the principal structural elements is followed by a summary of the means by which they can initially be sized by simple manual analysis. The important secondary aspects of behaviour are identified. Various methods of erection are described in outline.

1.1 General
An arch may be defined as a member shaped and supported in such a way that intermediate transverse loads are transmitted to the supports primarily by axial compressive forces in the arch. The arch form is intended to reduce bending moments in the superstructure and should be economical in material compared with an equivalent straight, simply supported girder or truss. The horizontal thrust is resisted by the foundation or by a girder or truss running longitudinally beneath the deck for the full length of the span.

1.2 Historical Development
The arch has long been acknowledged as an efficient and aesthetically pleasing structural form. (Conceptual design aspects are discussed in more detail in Lecture 15B.1.) However, a much wider choice of materials is available to the contemporary designer than was available to his Roman counterpart. Table 1 gives a summary of the longest arch bridges. For further information and examples see [1] and [2]. Table 1 The Longest Arch Bridges

Bridge New River Gorge Bayonne Sydney Harbour

Span in metres 518 510 509

Year of completion 1977 1931 1932

Location USA USA Sydney, Australia

Other details Four lanes; truss Four lanes, two side-walks;truss    (48,8m) wide; truss




Oregon, USA

Tied arch; four lanes; orthotropic deck; welded box girders Two-hinged arch Tied arch similar to Fremont Bridge

Zdakov Port Mann

380 366

1967 1964

Orlik, Czechoslovakia British Columbia, Canada Mersey, England Sabi, Rhodesia Glen Canyon, Arizona, USA Niagara River, USA

Runcorn Birchenough Glen Canyon LewistonQueenston Hellgate

330 329 313 305 298

1961 1935 1959 1962 1916

Alloy steel Deck is 213m above water level

New York City, Rail bridge USA

1.3 Types of Application
Steel arch bridges are generally used to support either highways or railways.

1.4 Range of Application
Typical spans for steel arches range from 50 - 500 metres.

2.1 Arch Layout
The nomenclature of the structural elements of an arch bridge is given in Figure 1.

Arch bridges can be distinguished by their structural actions. . of which there are two types: Type B: The basic tied arch bridge The arch still predominates. The arch is subjected to bending. The behaviour is very similar to Type A. but the thrust is resisted by tying the ends of the arch. shear and axial forces. For reasons of convenience each type is given a code letter: z Type A: The basic arch bridge The basic arch bridge. with a predominating arch and with the thrust transmitted directly to the foundation. z Tied arch bridges.

In flat terrain or where navigation clearances are to be achieved over significant proportions of the river width. The most satisfactory solution to this problem is that the dead load of the deck should provide sufficient prestress to ensure that net compression never develops in the hangers. In the basic arch and tied arch configurations (Figure 1) vertical hangers are usually used. Wherever the arch lies beneath the deck. the mechanical behaviour of the three types is largely similar. Whilst tied arch bridge structures exist in which both girder and arch are subject to considerable bending moments. Clearly this is unacceptable where cables are used. truss behaviour develops and upward wind loading may change tensile to compressive loading. An elegant alternative is afforded by the use of inclined arches connected in the midspan region of the arch. The arch itself is mainly loaded in compression. If hangers are inclined. the deck is supported by posts (i.Type C: The arch bridge with stiffening girder A predominating stiffening girder is subjected to bending moments and axial forces induced by the arch. rolled sections or cables can be used. they are relatively uncommon and are not discussed further here. As these hangers are loaded in tension.2 Structural Arrangement Where a steep sided valley or gorge is to be crossed the spandrel post arch of Figure 2a provides a striking and appropriate solution. one of the basic or tied arch arrangements of Figure 1 will generally be preferable. Though there is a difference in appearance. compression members) rather than being suspended on hangers. Other equally valid arch forms exist in which the arch may be situated either entirely below (Figure 2a) or partly below (Figure 2b) the deck. Where multiple spans are involved. 2. Figure 1 shows three situations in which the arch lies above the deck. there is a view (voiced by Leonhardt [2]) that repetition of the spandrel post arch . In this lecture only the mechanical behaviour of Type C is discussed in detail.e.

No essential differences are to be expected arising from their use as an arch. 3. the stiffening girders. CHOICE OF ELEMENTS The tied arch bridge generally consists of the following structural elements: z z z z the arch. continuous curved profile. it may have to be omitted near the ends of the arch to provide clearance for traffic.g. Where rolled or fabricated sections rather than cables are used for the hangers. overall curvature of the arch member may also be achieved by means of a series of short straight chords as indicated in Figure 3a. In this form of arch out-of-plane forces are generated in the top and bottom flanges of the arch member. as used to good effect in the Rogue River Bridge in Oregon. . Many of these structural elements are discussed in other lectures. plate girder or some form of hollow section (e. 3. However. connection of the hangers to the arch can be carried out using a detail in which splices are formed in extended web plates of the arch member at the joint (Figure 3). the end portals. A single tied or part tied arch can then be adopted on the main or navigation span. Even if bracing between arches is present over the larger part of the span. for aesthetic reasons the arch should follow a smooth.arrangement of Figure 2a rather than of the tied arch (Figure 1) is to be preferred on aesthetic grounds. Ideally. America [2]. thus necessitating an internal cross frame or diaphragm (Figure 3a). see Figure 4. box girder. circular). the hangers.1 The Arch The arch can be either a truss. The hangers are attached at breaks of slope in the arch.

for two reasons: z z Discrete intermediate restraint is provided to the arch by U-frames (such as BXX'B') comprising two hangers connected to a cross girder in Figure 4b. the lateral stability of the arch is somewhat more complicated to assess than for a truss. The stiffness of these frames varies over the whole length of the arch because of changes in hanger length. .Where wind bracing is not provided. The lengths of the arch members also change continuously. the bay length generally being constant with consequential variation in member length.

the support reaction R. T.2 The Stiffening Girder The girder can be made of: z z z an I-section. an excellent connection between the arch and girder is obtained by using two splice plates.The energy equation governing this problem and the method of solving it are similar to the approach for a truss. coinciding with the walls of the stiffening girder (Figure 5). BXX'B' in Figure 4b). To mitigate this detrimental effect. axial and shear forces at the boundaries M. a type of cross-section belonging mainly to the riveting era. or an open "top hat" section. B'. Rotation of the stiffening girder about its longitudinal axis effectively reduces the stiffness of the U-frames (e. an open "top hat" section. V. 3. P. 3. frame action at CYY'C' and the bracing above CC'. Any such eccentricity must be taken into account in design. will generally ensure the stability of points such as B.3 The Hangers . for instance due to a participating deck. bending moments. a box girder or other form of hollow section. Considering the tied arch more closely. The stress distribution in the plate is complicated. the arch is therefore connected eccentrically to the girder.g.4). It may be obtained using finite element methods. Computer analysis affords an alternative solution. For a box stiffening girder. In practice. the end cross girder is sometimes supported at midspan (Figure 4b). additional forces. it is to be noted that arch and girder are often in separate vertical planes. Each joint plate is loaded by: z z z z the arch thrust H/cos D. together with the restraint provided by the end portal CAA'C' (discussed in 3.

i. bracing is usually used for the central region of the arches. Wind forces and stability effects are transmitted to the supports by rigid end portals (Figure 7a). Opinions differ about the optimum choice of section. cables have been successfully used.e. Due to the high stress levels which occur and the effects of creep. for highway bridges and railway bridges with or without continuous ballast.4 The End Portals To support the arch laterally and to reduce the buckling length of the arch members. Such vibrations can be reduced by the use of dampers (Figure 6). 3. those with short wavelength occurring at high wind velocity. recoverable) and partly permanent. Cables are made of high tensile steel e. It is often easier to reduce the effect of vibrations than to suppress them. Fe 1800. . circular hollow sections or cables may be used for the hangers.g.I-sections (welded or rolled).e. However. elongation occurs which is partly elastic (i. The most dangerous vibrations are those with high kinetic energy. Annex A presents a method of ensuring that undesirable vibrations do not occur. I-section hangers can be sensitive with respect to flutter whilst hollow sections and cables may vibrate as a result of vortex shedding.

the reinforced last member of the wind bracing and the end cross girder. The line is symmetrical about midspan and its sign does not change.Although no stiffness requirements are generally specified. simple manual calculations can be used for initial design. Different methods may be adopted for transmitting these forces back to the supports. The reasoning can also be applied to most other types of arch bridge. . The inclined rigid end portal is composed of the two last members of each arch. This portal transmits forces directly back to the supports. SPECIAL ASPECTS OF BEHAVIOUR AND ANALYSIS 4. symbol H. Consider the tied arch shown in Figure 8a. z z The vertical rigid end portals transmit their forces back to the supports via the deck or wind bracing at deck level. 4. The tied arch is chosen here as an example. The greatest thrust clearly develops when the full span is loaded. it is considered good practice to limit the maximum 'lozenging' of an end portal to h/1500 (Figure 7b).1 Primary Effects The arch bridge is usually indeterminate. However. The influence line for the horizontal component of the midspan thrust in the arch. is shown in Figure 8b.

Next consider the behaviour of the bridge when subject to four important patterns of loading (Figure 9): .

full loading b. one side of the bridge fully loaded d. From computer calculations it will be found that the stiffening girder acting in bending contributes only about 5% to the load carrying resistance of the bridge. full loading over half the length of the bridge c.a. As a result a very good estimate of the thrust can be obtained from: H= where: (1) . 4.1.1 Full Loading In this case the thrust H reaches a maximum. alternating full loading over half the length of the bridge.

The maximum bending moment is therefore approximately: Mmax = (2) This maximum bending moment occurs at L/4. to the right: negative loading -q. the girder can be considered to be composed of two parts with a "hinge" at midspan.1.3 Full Loading on One Side of the Bridge .2 Full Loading over Half the Length of the Bridge The half span of uniformly distributed loading 2q is equivalent to two superimposed loadings (Figure 10): z z full loading: +q anti symmetric loading as follows: to the left: positive loading +q. As the deflection under this second loading is composed of two half waves. the second loading does not generate any thrust. Full loading primarily generates a thrust in the arch and a compensating tensile force in the girder.q is the uniformly distributed load L is the span of the bridge F is the rise of the arch. usually about L/7.1. Due to the symmetry of the influence line. 4. 4.

4. In an orthotropic deck the bending moment may lead to stresses greater than the allowable stress. then the horizontal displacements impose an S-shape on the arch. inducing a tensile force in the girder. but also horizontally the movements of both main girders are in the opposite direction. 4. but now: to the left: negative loading -q to the right: positive loading +q Again full loading primarily generates a thrust. This shear force is rather moderate. which is calculated from Equation (1). in one of the main girders: z z z z there is no thrust the connection between the arch and girder is subject to rotation only the arch moves vertically. span 114m. If a bracing is inserted. For the double track railway bridge across the Amsterdam Rhine Canal. As a consequence there is a shear force in the plane of the bracing. The above demonstrates that it is necessary to consider the bridge as a three-dimensional structure in the final design. 4.1 Bending of Hangers The initial analysis has assumed that the connection between the hangers and both the arch and girder are pinned.2 Secondary Effects The discussion in the previous section only addresses the primary modes of behaviour of the arch bridge. even in large bridges.1. with the inflection point at midspan.2. inducing a tensile force in the girder which is calculated from Equation (1). Considering the deformations due to the second loading. These forces create horizontal bending moments in the girders and deck.4 Alternating Full Loading over Half the Length of the Bridge Again the equally distributed loading 2q can be considered as being composed of two superimposed loadings: z z full loading: +q full loading on one side of half the length of the bridge: to the left: positive loading +q to the right: negative loading -q z on the other side of the bridge again a full loading on half the length of the bridge. Figure . the shear force at midspan is about 100 kN. In practice these connections are rigid and the displacements in the structure lead to bending moments in the hangers. The one sided loadings tend to lozenge the bridge cross-section causing horizontal lateral forces on the arch and deck. There are several secondary actions that need to be considered in design.Again the equally distributed loading 2q can be considered as being composed of two superimposed loadings: z z full loading +q full loading on one side of the bridge: +q full loading on the other side of the bridge: -q Again the full loading primarily generates a thrust.

low. however. Moments in the hangers at midspan are subject to full reversal and are therefore most likely to influence fatigue life. (In the Amsterdam Rhine railway bridge the maximum bending stress was 80 N/mm2).11(a) shows typical influence lines. 4. Their absolute value is. A detailed discussion of . justifying their neglect in the initial global analysis. In order to reduce the magnitude of these fluctuating stresses it is possible to reduce the minimum second moment of inertia of the hangers by reducing the flange width. It can be seen that the greatest bending moments arise when the arch is partially loaded. In the few situations in which such a deck arrangement might still be considered.2.2 Local Effects in the Deck The use of open grid steel decks on railway bridges is now very rare given the contemporary demand for the provision of ballast. Figure 11(b) shows the displaced shape and distribution of bending moments in the shortest hanger. The worst cases in this example are the shortest and the longest hangers. it is important that any adverse local effects in the deck arising from non-coincidence of the neutral axis levels of the stiffening girders and any longitudinal stringers or rail bearers should be allowed for and be combined with global effects.

4. of course. Type A: The elongation effect is assumed to be absent if the abutment carries the thrust. 6. Annex A summarises the approximate methods of ensuring that vibrations of undesirable magnitude do not occur. a description is given in Lecture 15B. COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TYPES OF ARCH BRIDGES The main features of behaviour of arch bridges have been described in previous sections.2. Type A and B: It is impossible to omit the bracing between the two arches: the portals formed by connection of the hangers to the cross girders offer very little restraint to the arch to prevent instability. 5. however. Type B and C: The tensile force in the ties causes an elongation which affects the bending moments in the arch. It is therefore helpful to highlight the differences and similarities between the different types of arch bridge. .such effects is not warranted here. Type A and B: The hangers are loaded in tension by local live load and. some examples are discussed below. 4. dead load. The erection sequence for the tied arch railway bridge across the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal is shown in Figures 12 and 13. Since a tie has a smaller cross-section than a stiffening girder. the elongation effect is greater for type B.3 Hanger Vibrations Hangers and long slender members are subject to wind induced oscillations. As no universal solution can be given. SPECIAL FEATURES OF CONSTRUCTION The erection method adopted is determined to a large extent by local circumstances.


However. 7. For a tied arch it is sometimes possible to pre-assemble the bridge completely and erect the structure using pontoons.It is considered advantageous to use a Type C arch bridge. Nijmegen. CONCLUDING SUMMARY . a bridge that was erected subsequently at Dordrecht across the Meuse was used as a temporary working area. with a rigid girder. An example is the Van Brienenoord Bridge. During erection of the bridge across the Waal. Rotterdam. An arch without ties can be erected in the same way taking out the ties after erection of the bridge. across the Meuse. the arch thrust causes some elongation of the ties. an effect which must be taken into account during fabrication and erection. The girder including the deck can often serve as a working area for the erection of the arch. for a railway bridge.

Stahlbau 30 (1960) 289-303. ANNEX A PRACTICAL MEANS OF ENSURING THAT HANGER VIBRATIONS ARE MINIMISED Hanger Flutter in I Sections The chance of undesirable vibrations is reduced to a large extent if the following condition. girder bending. Stahlbau 34 (1965) 171-186. New York 1971. many structures use a combination of both structural solutions. To use Equation (A1). The Architectural Press. 1984. Several methods of erection may be adopted for arch bridges. Beton-Verlag. Initial design can be effectively carried out by assuming pin jointed connections. 2. 1982. is satisfied: Z.: Das Bogentragwerk des Fehmarnsundbrücke. The horizontal thrust from the arch may be carried by the abutments (a pure arch) or by the horizontal girder (a tied arch). Z'b = (A2) . Either bracing or portal frame action is necessary to stabilise the arches and resist wind loading. and Wild. Note: "To a large extent" means that the possibility of vibration is not completely excluded. REFERENCES [1] O'Connor.: "Brucken/Bridges". partly empirical and partly theoretical. 9. P. hanger bending and cross-sectional distortion. Dusseldorf. Final analysis must take account of joint fixity and the three dimensional behaviour of the structure. H. ADDITIONAL READING 1. 8.z z z z z z z z Arch bridges may be used for both railway and highway bridges. F.b t 8 m/s (A1) where: Z is the frequency due to bending or rotational vibration. Stein.: Die Bogenbrücke über den Asker_fjord. The behaviour of all types of arch bridges is broadly similar but is influenced by the relative bending stiffnesses of the arch and the main horizontal girder. The requirement given by Equation (A1) is quite onerous for very long hangers. B. [2] Leonhardt. Colin: Design of Bridge Superstructures. it is necessary to calculate the bending (Z'b) and torsional (Z'r) natural frequencies. Wiley. b is the dimension of the hanger in the direction of the wind. H. H.. London.: "Building Bridges". 365-377. and Hafke. Hartwig. It is good practice to take precautionary measures to suppress visually disagreeable vibrations if they still occur. Load cases must include partially loaded situations which control transverse behaviour. Wittfoht. 3. J.

2 where: (A4) v is the velocity of the wind [m/s] D is the diameter of the cable [m] 0. should avoid a domain around: Fc = 0.2 is the Strouhal number To avoid excitation due to vortex shedding.1 (A5) . flutter cannot occur as the torsional mode of vibration cannot occur. Vortex Shedding Cables and circular hollow sections can develop significant vibrations from vortex shedding. Vortices are generated from alternate sides of the cable with a frequency Fw given by: Fw = 0. If cables are used. Difference in frequencies can be achieved by: z z z using a box or circular hollow section as a hanger. y2 z2 dy dz F is the axial force in the hanger m is the mass of the hanger per unit length L is the length of the hanger An important means of avoiding flutter is to ensure a sufficient difference between the two frequencies. thus increasing the torsion and warping constants over the full length of the hanger.Z'r = (A3) Im is the mass moment of inertia Iy is the second moment of area with respect to the bending axis It is the torsion constant A is the cross-section area Cw is the warping constant. However such an arrangement can cause maintenance difficulties. the cable frequency. using box sections locally for example by adding plates between the flanges of the I section over part of its length. adjusting Ix and Iy. Fc.

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