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5 Simposio Internacional de Puentes Metlicos

5th International Symposium on Steel Bridges
Barcelona, Marzo 2003
Jos Martnez Salcedo, Civil Engineer, FCC CONSTRUCCIN, S.A.


Quite few bascule bridges have been constructed in Spain in the past, and nearly none have survived, we
can mention the truss bridge of Sevilla. In 1960 a double leaf bascule bridge was erected in Cadiz. Not until
1992 was another bascule bridge constructed over de Guadalquivir River. In last years bascule bridges have
been constructed in the Ports of Tarragona, Barcelona and Valencia, and another one is under construction
in Murcia.
In this paper we shall describe the detailed design of the steel structure and mechanisms of the Barcelona
and Tarragona Bascule Bridges which was carried out almost at the same time. We shall also explain the
construction and how fabrication tolerances of the steel deck were coped with by mechanisms.


Mobile structures have many possibilities not only in bridges, but also in roofs of stadiums and other sport or
leisure facilities, but up to now they have been used in Spain only few times. Though the driving system can
be hydraulic or electric, the problems that have to be faced in the design of these structures and that make
then different from fix structures, are quite similar. The main difficulty in these structures is that we have to
join the tolerances of the civil engineer methods (concrete structures or steel structure) with those of
mechanical engineers that are much tighter.

The two bascule bridges described in this paper, though with different structural design had used the same
mechanical solution to face this problems.


2.1 Barcelona Bascule Bridge

The Barcelona Bridge is a two

leaf bascule bridge, in the port
of Barcelona. The clear span of
the water channel between the
faces of the piers is of 100 m,
and the span between the
bearings is of 109 m.
With a leaf of 54.5 m of
cantilever its a world record in
its type. The piers, supported on
piles are of concrete, and also
the approach spans with which
the bridge gets a clearance of

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20 m above the sea level. In this bridge not only the deck can be considered singular, but also the main piers
make a great contribution to its sculptor appearance.

Each leaf of the bridge has a length of 68.5 m, with 14 m on the rear of the axis of main bearings where the
counterweight is, and 54.5 m from the bearings to the centre of the span. The width of the deck gets to
18.0m, because the sides of the structure are sloped towards the axis of the bridge. The carriageway is
15.0m, though not all of it is useful because of the slope of structural steel stays.

In the structure we can talk about the following parts:

? Counterweight: Its a big box on the rear of the box girder of the bearings, where a counterweight of
about 1200 t of normal concrete is placed. It has a length of 12.5 m, a height of 4.25 and the whole width of
the bridge. Clearly it is needed to place the centre of gravity of the whole leaf in the axis of the main bearings
(or as near as possible) so under dead load and without external actions due to wind the system is balanced
and with nearly no effort the leaf can be closed or opened by the driving system. The structure of
counterweight is under traffic load.

? Bearings box girder. Its a heavily stiffened box girder with the spherical bearings on each side. It
has a length of 18 m and a width of 3.0m.

? Structural stays. The bridge has two planes of structural stays, all of them stiff box sections. The
lateral girders of the cantilever are supported by the front stays in tension, the back stays also in tension
take the load to the counterweight, and the pylons that support them take their load in compression to the
bearing box girder. The stay system is slightly sloped inwards towards the top. As mentioned all these
elements are box sections. In the first designs the front stays were locked coiled cables, but the huge
changes of stress that took place during the movements of the bridge made the solution change due to
fatigue problems.

? Cantilever. The cross section of the girder has two lateral C shaped longitudinal girders sloped in
the same plane as the structural stays that provide them with intermediate support. Their height is variable
between 1.8 m in the centre and 3.8 m where they join the bearing box girder. The transverse girders, floor
beams, are spaced 4.2 m and support an orthotropic deck. The orthotropic deck consists of a 12 mm plate
with 10 mm trapezoidal shaped stringers spaced 600 mm and that provide support to the deckplate at a
spacing of 300 mm.

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Stringers are continuous, passing through cut outs in the webs of the floor beams, without cope holes nor
close to the deck nor in the soffit, to provide the best fatigue behaviour in accordance with latest tests.

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2.2 Tarragona Bascule Bridge

The Tarragona Bridge is a two leaf bascule bridge, in the port of Tarragona .The clear span of the water
channel between the faces of
the piers is of 70 m. The
distance between the bearings
is 80 m, so we have a
cantilever of 40.0 m.

The piers on which it is

supported are of white
concrete and provide the deck
with a clearance of 10 m
above the water. They were
constructed with caissons
made on floating drydocks
sunk on its final position. The
approach spans are
composite box girders of 40.0

Each of the flaps of the bridge has a length of 51.5 m: 11.5 m on the rear, where the counterweight is placed,
and 40m of cantilever, from the bearings to the centre of the span. The width of the deck is 12.0 m, in this
case all space is useful as there is no structure above the deck.

The same as in Barcelona we can talk about the following parts:

? Counterweight. Its a box where the counterweight of about 580 t is placed, it has a length of 10.25
m and a height of 3 m. We have two main differences with Barcelona: In the part of counterweight vehicles
dont move on the bridge itself, the move on a concrete slab supported by the pier. The size available for the
counterweight is smaller and we had to provide with a bigger specific weight for it. A heavyweight concrete of
barita with a unit mass of 2900 kg/m3 was used.

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? Bearings box girder. It is the box girder where the bearings are located. It is between yhe
counterweight and the cantilever. In this case its length is smaller than the width of the bridge 7.8 m, with a
width of 2.5 m.

? Cantilever. The part of the deck in front of the bearings box girder. The cross section is a
trapezoidal box with an orthotropic deck of 12 mm and trapezoidal stringers that provide support to the plate
every 300 mm. Floor beams are spaced 3.95 m, and the detail of connection between stringers and
crossbeams is as in Barcelona, continuous without cope holes. Webs and bottom flange are stiffened with
open stiffeners continuous and with cope hole. Fabrication has proved to be more difficult without cope holes
if the required tolerances between the cut in the crossbeam and the stringer are to be satisfied.


We consider mechanisms all those parts that are mobile in an active or in a passive way. The spherical
bearings and shock absosbers, would be passive and hydraulic cylinders and rear and centre devices would
be active. All mobile elements have been done in stainless steel in order to increase durability, and reduce
maintenance. Also all hydraulic pipes are of stainless steel. We will now describe briefly the main elements.

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? Bearings. They support the weight of each flap, allowing the rotation of the deck. We have the
bearing itself and a pin that connects it to the box girder that we have in that axis. The bearings used are
radial spherical plain bearings maintenance free. These spherical bearings are insensitive to misalignment.
Within certain limits the shaft can align itself in relation to the housing. In this way the centre of the two
bearings of one flaps always are aligned. This is a critical problem with the tolerances involved in fabrication
of the steel structure and in positioning of the housing of the bearings on the concrete structure.
In order to cope with thermal expansion of the bearings box girder one of the bearings of each flap is provided
with an additional sliding surface to allow for its axial displacement.
Their static capacity is several times bigger than the actual loads, as it is controlled by an analysis of life
duration. The bearings of Barcelona have a diameter of 630 mm (shaft) and a static capacity of 6000 t when
the maximum load is 1750t.

? Main cylinders. We have two cylinders per flap,

that open or close the bridge. As the bridge is balanced,
the only loads are those due to friction (quite small) and
wind. This is the load that will be decisive in the design of
not only the cylinders but of all the hydraulic system
including the pumps. The criteria for wind loading was
taken from DIN 1072 , when the bridge is opened the
wind load is 0.7 times the load with the bridge closed,
and when the flap is in any intermediate position the load
is 0.3 times the load with the bridge closed. The load
with the bridge closed is taken from Eurocode.

To take into account the possible failure of one of the

cylinders, one single cylinder can move the flap with
maximum wind load although taking more time for the

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operation. Each cylinders of Tarragona has a capacity of 310t and a closed length of 6.0m, that gets to
nearly to 10 m when opened. In Barcelona the capacity is 485 t, with a closed length of 8.0 m and 13.5 m at
full stroke.

Nonlinear calculations were made, taking into account possible geometrical imperfections, gaps between the
rod and the piston due to wear o non perfect fit. The connection with the bridge and with the concrete pier is
through spherical bearings, to allow for angular changes as mentioned for the main bearings.

? Rear locking device. Once the bridge is open rear locking devices are activated so cylinders can
stop working. At the end of its movement, either closing or opening the bridge hits at creeping steep

against a rubber bearing, and a cylinder pushes out a pin that bears against a roller fixed on the concrete
structure. In this way wind forces when the bridge is open or traffic loads when the bridge is closed are taken
by this mechanical device, and not by the cylinders. Shock absorbers are also provided at the open and
close position.

? Centre locking device. They join the to flaps at the centre of the span, when the bridge is closed,
making the flaps have the same level at that point. They take only shear, as is usual in roadway movable
bridges, so a small angular discontinuity is possible between both flaps. They shall also allow for thermal
longitudinal movements.

On one of the flaps we have two pins (one on each side of the deck) with a sloped end. On the other flap we
have on each side two rollers. When the device is activated the pin is forced between the two rollers taking in
this way the deck to a common surface. The system allows to fit the pin even if the flaps are not initially at
the same level, due for example to thermal effects. When the flaps are opened during some time, the solar

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radiation may have a different effect on the two of them, one flap is getting heated at its bottom and the other
at the deck.

Even with very tight tolerances between the inner distance of rollers and the outside dimensions of the pin,
they will always be some movement. To avoid this gas cylinders with nearly a flat force-stroke relation were
installed to press one flap against the other.

? Hydraulic system. All the above mentioned elements are driven by a hydraulic system. As long as
there is not other choice for the main cylinders, the cylinders of rear and centre devices are sometimes
electrically operated. The hydraulic system was considered more durable, and with less possible problems.
All the system is operated by a system of pumps, a fail of one doesnt stop operation. In Tarragona we have
3 units of 55KW, and in Barcelona 4 units of 55KW on each flap. An emergency unit was installed to provide
energy in case any supply failure should happen.

The Barcelona bridge opens up to an angle of 75. In 3 minutes it activates locking devices, opens or closes
and activates locking devices again. In you include operation of barriers the total operation takes 6 minutes.
In Tarragona the open angle is of 82, and in takes 2 minutes to open the bridge, and 5 minutes in all the


Both bridges were erected using similar ideas. The tight tolerances needed for a proper operation of the
mechanisms, required to assemble on the ground the whole flaps with the mechanisms included in them.
With the whole steel structure on the ground the machining of the holes for the pins of the main bearings
takes place, and the main cylinders and locking devices are installed.

Then supported on the main bearings and on an additional shore on the front of the cantilever, the
counterweight is filled, up to the point we have no reaction in the front shore that was provided with jacks.
Although obviously a theoretical calculation had been made, in this way we had a greater guarantee.
All railings, hydraulic pipes and finishes are installed on the ground.

Once we have each flap complete we have to place them on their final position. In this moment we had in
Tarragona two flaps with an individual weight of 850 t and in Barcelona two flaps of an individual weight of
1800t. The erection took place using floating sheerlegs that take the flap from the erection site to its position
on top of the concrete piers.

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In Tarragona a floating crane with a capacity of 1200 t was used (TAKLIFT 7) and in Barcelona one with 3200t
(ASIAN HERCULES II). This one, probably one of biggest that up to the date had worked in Spain has
dimensions of 91x 43 m and a boom height of 85 m.

Though these floating cranes are quite sensible in placing the load, the high tolerances required made us
design carefully a system of guides and of jacks to take the flap to its exact position. We needed a precision
of no more than 10 mm, which was the tolerance we could cope with in the locking devices and main
bearings. While the operation in Tarragona took only a few hours in Barcelona in took nearly 12 hours per

Once the crane had left the flap, the cylinders which came with the bridge are connected to the pier, and after
connecting the hydraulic system the flap is opened as soon as possible, so the ship traffic can continue in
the Port and rear locking devices can be adjusted. In Barcelona one flap was erected on Friday the other on
Saturday and on Monday the bridge was opened.

Though seeking for tolerances in all elements was a priority, it is always difficult to meet in the concrete
structure of the piers and in the steel structure of the deck the tolerances needed for the mechanisms. That
is why heavy tolerance requirements were set for the concrete and the steel structure.

After this, the centre locking device had to be adjusted with the bridge in closed position, which was not an
easy task either.

Finally the pavement was done, after blasting a 20 mm epoxi pavement was placed and the counterweight
with the help of the cylinders was adjusted, a small unbalanced closing moment was left to provide reaction
against the rubber bearings of the rear locking devices.

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[1] Barcelona bascule bridge

Owner : Autoridad Portuaria Barcelona (A.P.B),( Rafael Senz de Navarrete - Fernando de la Mata) ?
Project : Juan Jose Arenas ? Structural Design bascule bridge: Luis Viuela & Jos Martnez Salcedo
FCC Construccin, S.A. ? Contractor: FCC, Construccin, S.A. (Jos.A. Rubn; Manuel Delgado)
Guinovart, S.A ? Steel Contractor : URSSA, S.A. ? Mechanism: NOELL

[2] Tarragona bascule bridge

Owner : Autoridad Portuaria Tarragona (A.P.T) (Ramn Garca Rodriguez Ramn Juanola Juan
Borrs) ? Preliminary Project : INTECSA ? Structural Design bascule bridge & approach spans: Luis
Viuela & Jos Martnez Salcedo , FCC Construccin, S.A. ? Structural design concrete : Francisco
Esteban Lefler ? Contractor: FCC Construccin,S.A (Miguel Roset; Carlos de Frutos) COMAPA, S.A
? Steel Contractor : Schwartz- Hautmont, S.A ? Mechanism: NOELL