What Are The Types Of Suspension Bridges?

Several arrangements of suspension bridges are illustrated in Fig. 1. The main cable is continuous, over saddles at the pylons, or towers, from anchorage to anchorage.  

FIGURE 15.9 Suspension-bridge arrangements. (a) One suspended span, with pin-ended stiffening truss. (b) Three suspended spans, with pin-ended stiffening trusses. (c) Three suspended spans, with continuous stiffening truss. (d ) Multispan bridge, with pin-ended stiffening trusses. (e) Self-anchored suspension bridge.

When the main cable in the side spans does not support the bridge deck (side spans independently supported by piers), that portion of the cable from the saddle to the anchorage is virtually straight and is referred to as a straight backstay.

This is also true in the case shown in Fig. 1a where there are no side spans. Figure 1d represents a multispan bridge. This type is not considered efficient, because its flexibility distributes an undesirable portion of the load onto the stiffening trusses and may make horizontal ties necessary at the tops of the pylons.

Ties were used on several French multispan suspension bridges of the nineteenth century. However, it is doubtful whether tied towers would be esthetically acceptable to the general public. Another approach to multispan suspension bridges is that used for the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge (Fig. 2). It is essentially composed of two three-span suspension bridges placed end to end.

This system has the disadvantage of requiring three piers in the central portion of the structure where water depths are likely to be a maximum. Suspension bridges may also be classified by type of cable anchorage, external or internal. Most suspension bridges are externally anchored (earth-anchored) to a massive external anchorage (Fig. 1a to d).

In some bridges, however, the ends of the main cables of a suspension bridge are attached to the stiffening trusses, as a result of which the structure becomes self-anchored (Fig. 1e). It does not require external anchorages.

The stiffening trusses of a self-anchored bridge must be designed to take the compression induced by the cables. The cables are attached to the stiffening trusses over a support that resists the vertical component of cable tension. The vertical upward component may relieve or even exceed the dead-load reaction at the end support. If a net uplift occurs, a pendulum link tie-down should be provided at the end support.

Self-anchored suspension bridges are suitable for short to moderate spans (400 to 1,000 ft) where foundation conditions do not permit external anchorages. Such conditions include poor foundation bearing strata and loss of weight due to anchorage submergence. Typical examples of self-anchored suspension bridges are the Paseo Bridge at Kansas City, with a main span of 616 ft, and the former Cologne-Mu¨lheim Bridge (1929) with a 1,033-ft span.

Another type of suspension bridge is referred to as a bridle-chord bridge. Called by Germans Zu¨gelgurtbru¨cke, these structures are typified by the bridge over the Rhine River at Ruhrort-Homberg (Fig. 15.11), erected in 1953, and the one at Krefeld-Urdingen, erected in 1950.  

It is a special class of bridge, intermediate between the suspension and cable-stayed types and having some of the characteristics of both. The main cables are curved but not continuous between towers. Each cable extends from the tower to a span, as in a cable stayed bridge. The span, however, also is suspended from the cables at relatively short intervals over the length of the cables, as in suspension bridges.

A distinction to be made between some early suspension bridges and modern suspension bridges involves the position of the main cables in profile at midspan with respect to the stiffening trusses. In early suspension bridges, the bottom of the main cables at maximum sag penetrated the top chord of the stiffening trusses and continued down to the bottom chord.

Because of the design theory available at the time, the depth of the stiffening trusses was relatively large, as much as 1⁄40 of the span. Inasmuch as the height of the pylons is determined by the sag of the cables and clearance required under the stiffening trusses, moving the midspan location of the cables from the bottom chord to the top chord increases the pylon height by the depth of the stiffening trusses.

In modern suspension bridges, stiffening trusses are much shallower than those used in earlier bridges and the increase in pylon height due to midspan location of the cables is not substantial (as compared with the effect in the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City where the depth of the stiffening trusses is 25% of the main-cable sag).

Although most suspension bridges employ vertical suspender cables to support the stiffening trusses or the deck structural framing directly, a few suspension bridges, for example, the Severn Bridge in England and the Bosporus Bridge in Turkey, have inclined or diagonal suspenders.

In the vertical-suspender system, the main cables are incapable of resisting shears resulting from external loading. Instead, the shears are resisted by the stiffening girders or by displacement of the main cables. In bridges with inclined suspenders, however, a truss action is developed, enabling the suspenders to resist shear.

(Since the cables can support loads only in tension, design of such bridges should ensure that there always is a residual tension in the suspenders; that is, the magnitude of the compression generated by live-load shears should be less than the dead-load tension.) A further advantage of the inclined suspenders is the damping properties of the system with respect to aerodynamic oscillations.

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