Short-span bridges overwhelmingly outnumber major bridge structures in the United States, yet they have received substantially less media attention.

The 1980s brought an awareness of the need to replace or repair many of these smaller bridges, and with that came more opportunity for concrete use. Concrete is the leading choice for both replacement and new construction of short or short-span bridges because of its adaptability, durability, low maintenance, and low life-cycle cost. Data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows concrete to be a superior choice in bridge structure materials.

Whether concrete bridges are cast in place or precast and prestressed depends on site constraints as well as local economic and political conditions. This article presents several cases in which prestressed concrete proved to be the economical alternative for local bridge installations.

The PCI manual Precast Prestressed Short Span Bridges: Spans to 100 Feet is a good aid for preliminary comparison of bridge types. Typical engineering properties are given for a dozen types of bridge superstructure members. It also gives information on connections, bearings, diaphragms, and other superstructure details.