According to ASCE's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, of the more than 600,000 bridges across the United States, one in 11 (9.1%) were designated structurally deficient in 2016, and more than one in eight (13.6%) were designated as functionally obsolete in 2016. Steel bridges offer viable design solutions for bridge owners because they are durable, cost-effective, and offer ease of maintenance and construction.

The structural advantages of using steel include its high strength, durability, and light weight, which mean lighter foundations and lower erection costs. Steel is ideal for short-span bridges because of its durability, ease of maintenance and ease of construction.

Steel’s strength makes it highly resistant to extreme natural disasters, such as earthquakes. The 1994 Northridge, California earthquake destroyed the surrounding transportation infrastructure. However, 96 percent of the existing steel bridges were completely undamaged, even though they were designed using 1940s technology.

Today, designers and engineers are specifying new high-performance steels that were developed through a partnership of AISI, the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Federal Highway Administration. These new steels have a yield strength of 50 ksi, 70 ksi and 100 ksi, have superior toughness, and can be welded with little or no preheat. Alternative bridge form designs are being developed that promise even greater design flexibility and cost efficiencies.

Weathering steels are cost-effective and durable. These steels contain certain elements that allow them, when properly exposed to the atmosphere, to form a protective oxide patina or coating. Studies show that using weathering steel reduces both initial and life cycle costs.

High-Performance Steel Bridges

In 1992, AISI partnered with the Carderock Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to develop new and improved steel alternatives for bridges. The team brought together a cadre of professionals in steel production, bridge design, bridge fabrication and welding, as well as specialists from the U.S. government and academia. The result was a new type of steel, known as high-performance steel (or HPS), which provided up to 18% cost savings and up to 28% weight savings when compared with traditional steel bridge design materials.

HPS went from concept to application in just five years, and is now being used in more than 400 bridges in 43 states. HPS 100W, HPS 70W and HPS 50W produce bridges that are more cost-effective, higher in strength, lighter in weight, and have greater atmospheric resistance than conventional steels. They also have improved fatigue and corrosion-resistance properties.

The development and implementation of HPS was considered so significant and innovative that the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF) awarded the Charles Pankow Innovative Applications Award in 1997 to the AISI, U.S. Navy and FHWA partnership.

Weathering Steel

Bridge engineers choose weathering steel for its performance, economical and environmental benefits. Weathering steels contain elements that allow them to form a protective coating patina or coating when properly exposed to the atmosphere. The first bridge using this material was built over the New Jersey Turnpike in 1964.

The use of uncoated weathering steel typically provides initial cost savings of 10 percent or more, and life cycle cost savings of at least 30 percent over the life of the structure. Initial cost savings are realized because weathering steels do not need to be painted. Life cycle cost savings are realized by the material’s durability. Inspections of bridges in service between 18 and 30 years show that weathering steel performs well in most environments.

Weathering steels provide environmental benefits as well. They do not require initial painting, thereby reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) when oil-based coatings are used. They do not require coating removal or disposal of contaminated blast debris over the life span of the structure, providing another significant environmental benefit.

A comprehensive research report on the performance of weathering steel bridges in West Virginia is available here.

Short Span Steel Bridges

Many of the United States' substandard bridges are short span bridges, falling within the 20’ to 120’ span range. Virtually every one of them could be replaced with durable, sustainable, economical steel. By utilizing new modular systems, a steel bridge can now be installed in less than 48 hours.

Bridge engineers are always concerned with finding the most cost-effective bridge solutions. However, the time and funding available for comparing alternatives are often limited, particularly for short span bridges. A new interactive, web-based design tool called eSPAN140 is now available to assist bridge professionals with their individual projects, with customized results delivered in less than one minute. Click here to try it out. SMDI has also developed short span bridge design aids, guidelines, and educational seminars to help bridge owners, engineers and designers choose the best material for the job.

Get more information on SMDI's short span steel bridge program.

Research Committees

The American Iron and Steel Institute coordinates the formation and activities of various research committees dedicated to developing new technologies and advancing best practices for steel products. The Corrosion Advisory Group is one of those committees. 

The Corrosion Advisory Group (CAG) is a council of technical experts representing steel producers, fabricators, academia, government officials and related organizations that provide specification and code development, research, technical assistance, site investigations and steel construction market development related to corrosion performance and mitigation of structural steel corrosion.

The CAG general objectives are to:

  • Assist in the development of guidelines and specifications to mitigate the corrosion of steel structures through the use of steel grades (ASTM A1010, ASTM A588, HPS 50W/70W/100W, etc.), proven coating systems (galvanizing, metalizing, polymer coatings, etc.) and design details. 

  • Identify and develop research efforts for the continued advancement of steel corrosion mitigation technologies and design details.

  • Provide site investigations to bridge owners at locations in which structural steel is a potential option for a newly constructed or replacement bridge.

  • Facilitate technical knowledge transfer of advances in corrosion technology from mills, fabricators, universities and corrosion engineers to designers, owners and government officials.

  • Collaborate with related organizations to assist in implementing new guidelines, methodologies and research findings.

For more information, please contact AISI Director of Business Development Dan Snyder.

Design Aids

Guide Specification for Highway Bridge Fabrication with HPS 100W (HPS 690W) Steel for Non-Fracture Critical Applications  - Updated March 2018
04/23/2018 - This guide updates the November 2012 edition. Free download. 

Guide Specification for Highway Bridge Fabrication with HPS 100W (HPS 690W) Steel for Non-Fracture Critical Applications November 2012
12/17/2012 - This guide provides the most recent recommended methodology to fabricate and weld structures using ASTM A709 or AASHTO M270, Grade HPS 100W (HPS 690W) steel.

Standards Available for Downloading from AASHTO/NSBA Steel Bridge Collaboration
8/16/2011 - These standards were developed by the AASHTO/National Steel Bridge Alliance Steel Bridge Collaboration and cover the design, fabrication and erection processes.

Guide Specification for Highway Bridge Fabrication With High Performance Steel, Third Edition
7/18/2011 - This edition provides bridge professionals with the recommended methodology to fabricate and weld structures using ASTM A709 or AASHTO M270, Grade HPS 70W (HPS 485W) steel.

Steel Bridge Design Handbook (NSBA)
6/13/2011 - This handbook includes chapters on selecting the right bridge type, stringer bridges, loads and load combinations, and design for constructability, among others.

Steel Bridge Construction: Myths & Realities Released!
1/20/2011 - This document compiles and corrects top myths and misperceptions about the viability of steel in bridge design and construction for a wide range of bridge types.

Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel For Bridges
The benefits of hot-dip galvanized steel, explained by the American Galvanizers Association.

FHWA Steel Fabrication
8/18/2010 - FHWA resource on bridge technology and steel.

FHWA Technical Advisory on Uncoated Weathering Steel in Structures
7/1/2010 - Provides suggested guidelines for proper application of uncoated (unpainted) weathering grade steels in highway structures and recommendations for maintenance. 

Corrosion 97, Update on Applications of Corrosion Coulometers
1/1/1997 - This is a review and status description for the corrosion coulometer.

FHWA Steel Fabrication
Provides a link to Federal Highway Administration library of resources.

Research Reports

Seismic Design and Nonlinear Evaluation of Steel I-Girder Bridges Using Conventional and Ductile Support Cross-Frames
7/24/2014 - Updated! The research yielded design examples for steel plate girder bridges that could significantly limit damage sustained in a large earthquake. Replaces 09/2013 rpt.

NCHRP Report 725: "Guidelines for Analysis Methods and Construction Engineering of Curved and Skewed Steel Girder Bridges"
9/12/2012 - The report details the findings of NCHRP Project 12-79, covering simplified 1D or 2D analysis methods vs. 3D methods, and guidelines on construction analysis and plan details.

Performance of Weathering Steel Bridges in West Virginia
3/31/2011 - This report assesses the corrosion performance of weathering steel bridges in West Virginia and presents guidelines and recommendations for their design and maintenance.

High Performance Steels Build Longer and Stronger Bridges (World Steel Association)
1/21/2011 - This study demonstrates the reduction of CO2 emissions through the use of high performance steels. Produced by World Steel Association.

Proposed Seismic Provisions and Commentary for Steel Plate Girder Superstructures
6/1/2010 - This report presents a summary of research and develops code language and commentary that can be adopted into the AASHTO LRFD Specifications.

Steel Bridge Bearing Selection and Design Guide (Full Version)
1/1/2006 - This guide facilitates the process of selecting cost-effective and appropriate bearing systems for steel girder bridges.

Steel Bridge Bearing Selection and Design Guide (Part 1)
1/1/2006 - This section covers Part I of the guide through Steel Reinforced Elastometric Bearings (pages 1 through II-9).

Steel Bridge Bearing Selection and Design Guide (Part 2)
1/1/2006 - This section covers Part II of the guide (pages II-10 through II-36).

Steel Bridge Bearing Selection and Design Guide (Part 3)
1/1/2006 - This section covers Part III of the guide, pages 53-85.

Bridge Code PQR Testing HPS 100W using Mil800-NPNi and Mil800-H Fluxes with LA-100 Electrode
10/27/2005 - This report covers testing conducted to determine if two existing wire and flux combinations are capable of joining HPS 100W successfully.

High-Performance Steel Corrugated Web Girder Fabrication Innovations
4/9/2004 - This report provides a literature and experimental study of strain aging in high- performance steel and other bridge steels.

Inquiries About the Manufacture and Use of HPS Grade 70W and 50W For Bridges
4/1/2004 - Roy Teal, consultant to AISI, the High Performance Steel Steering Committee and the Welding Advisory Group, answers questions about the material.

Statistical Analysis of Structural Plate Mechanical Properties - Full Report
1/16/2003 - This report describes the extensive analysis of the current data that includes both tensile and Charpy V-Notch data. Authors: Somchat Suwan, Lance Manuel and Karl H. Frank. January 16, 2003.

Evaluation of Tubular (Metal-Core) GMAW and GCAW Consumables for Welding HPS 70W
10/23/2002 - The purpose of this work was to determine the minimum preheat required for welding HPS 70W when using gas-shielded arc welding processes and tubular wire electrodes.

Strength and Ductility of HPS 70W Tension Members and Tension Flanges with Holes
3/1/2002 - Experimental and analytical research determines the strength and ductility performance of tension members and the tension flange of flexural members fabricated with HPS 70W.

Performance of Weathering Steel in Texas Dept. of Transportation Bridges (PDF 4.5 MB)
6/2/2000 - The research provides recommendations for achieving good performance from weathering steel bridges.

Weld Deposit Evaluation for the HPS 70W and 100W Steel
12/1/1998 - This report includes the results of research performed on combinations of Submerged Arc Welding consumables needed for joining high-performance weathering steels.

Weldability Testing of the HPS 70W Steel - Final Report
2/1/1998 - This report is a review of the simulative-, small- and full-scale weldability test performed on HPS 70W.

Integral Abutments for Steel Bridges
10/1/1996 - This work reviews development and design implementation to aid bridge engineers.

Status of High Performance Steel Program
1/1/1996 - This report provides an update on the high performance steel for bridges program.

Performance of Weathering Steel in Highway Bridges - A Third-Phase Report
12/31/1995 - This report includes results from the 52 weathering steel bridges that were originally inspected in 1980 as part of Phase 1.

Effect of Yield-Tensile Ratio on Structural Behavior - High-Performance Steels for Bridge Construction
6/6/1995 - This report addresses the influence of yield-tensile ratio on the behavior of members and connections.

Papers & Articles

Bridge Engineering Expert Dennis Mertz Dies at 63
11/21/2016 - Nov 2016 - Modern Steel Construction - Dennis was a beloved and innovative member of SMDI's Bridge Task Force. He is sorely missed.

Steelmakers Take Aim at Bridge Market
11/21/2013 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 2013 - Len Boselovic discusses opportunities for steel in the short span bridge market and design tool eSPAN140.

Standardizing Short Span Steel Bridge Design
8/17/2012 - Public Works Magazine, August 2012 - A Web-based tool provides national design standards for cost-effective, sustainable structures.

Weathering Steel for Bridges
6/20/2011 - STRUCTURE magazine, June 2011 issue - Authored by FHWA engineers, this article explores the benefits and best applications for weathering steel for bridges.

Century-Old Bridge Coming Back Together Near Corydon
6/14/2011 - Louisville KY Courier-Journal - A steel bridge that served traffic across the Blue River from horse-and-buggy days to cars and trucks will sit on new piers by this fall.

Utah Completes Record-Breaking Bridge Move in a Single Night
3/29/2011 - Article from Bridge Design & Engineering Magazine. A view into the record-breaking operation that moved Utah's new Sam White Bridge into position in a single night.

Gateway to the Columbia River Gorge
9/1/2009 - The Oregon DOT chose steel girders instead of concrete because of design and cost efficiencies for the redesign of the Sandy River-Jordan Road Bridge at Troutdale.

Government Engineering Magazine Article: "Collaboration Breeds Success" - January/February 2009
5/12/2009 - The ramps and bridges of the Marquette Interchange reconstruction project in Milwaukee, Wis. are supported predominantly by high-performance steel.

High-Performance Steels Provide Weight and Cost Savings for Design-Build Projects
1/1/2005 - Design-Build Dateline Magazine - The infrastructure challenges in the U.S. present an opportunity for design-build professionals.

Team Honored for Developing High-Performance Steel For Bridges
12/1/1997 - A team from AISI, the U.S. Navy's Carderock Division, and the FHWA received the 1997 Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF) Charles Pankow Award for Innovation.

High-Performance Steel: Research to Practice
4/1/1997 - A new grade of high-performance structural steel, HPS-485W, is now commercially available for highway bridge construction.

High-Performance Steel Scores Big With Massachusetts Highway Department's Route 3 North Design-Build Project
This project is the Mass. Highway Dept's first design-build project and use of Grade 485W (70 ksi) high-performance steel.


Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture

Congratulations to Matthew H. Hebdon, Ph.D., P.E., recipient of the 2019 Robert J. Dexter Memorial Award Lecture! Dr. Hebdon is an assistant professor in the Charles Edward Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, VA. He presented his lecture on "A709-50CR (A1010) Steel Bridge Research" on August 1, 2019 at the Steel Bridge Task Force meeting in Philadelphia, PA. 

The Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture provides an opportunity for an individual early in his/her career in structural engineering to present a lecture on his/her steel bridge activities to the SMDI Steel Bridge Task Force and to participate in its semiannual three-day meeting. The Steel Bridge Task Force is made up of leading steel bridge experts. 

The program was instituted in 2005 to honor Robert J. Dexter, associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. An internationally recognized expert on steel fracture and fatigue problems, Professor Dexter passed away on November 16, 2004.

Click here to read more!

Past Recipients:

  • Hussam Mahmoud, Ph.D., Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado (2014)
  • Caroline R. Bennett, Ph.D., P.E., University of Kansas in Lawrence (2013)
  • Hassan H. Abbas, Ph.D., Auburn University (2012)
  • Justin Ocel, Ph.D., P.E., Federal Highway Administration (2010)
  • Emmett A. Sumner III, Ph.D.,North Carolina State University in Raleigh (2009)
  • Jennifer Righman McConnell, Ph.D., University of Delaware (2007)
  • Reagan Herman, Ph.D., University of Houston (2006)
  • Dr. Robert Connor, Purdue University (2005)

Richard S. Fountain Award

Congratulations! The 2020 Richard S. Fountain Award goes to Robert J. Connor, the Jack and Kay Hockema Professor in Civil Engineering at Purdue University's Lyles School of Engineering. Dr. Connor is a nationally recognized expert on fatigue and fracture whose work has contributed substantially to advancing steel bridge design in those areas. He has been instrumental in the development of new guide specifications and provisions that are helping engineers at state Departments of Transportation in their analysis and inspection of steel bridges in the United States.     

The Richard S. Fountain Award is presented annually by the Steel Bridge Task Force of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA), and the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) T-14 Technical Committee for Structural Design to recognize leadership in steel bridge research and outstanding efforts to advance AASHTO specifications. The award was instituted in 2001 to honor Richard S. Fountain, founder of the Steel Bridge Task Force. Richard Fountain passed away on March 14, 2011.  

Click here to read more! 

Past Recipients: 

  • Ed Wasserman, Senior Engineer of Bridge Design and Engineering, Modjeski and Masters (2019) 
  • Alexander D. Wilson, Manager of Customer Technical Services for ArcelorMittal, USA, Retired (2014)
  • Ronald D. Medlock, P.E., High Steel Structures, Inc., Lancaster, PA (2013)
  • Yoni Adonyi, Ph.D., P.E., professor, Omer Blodgett Chair of Welding and Materials Joining Engineering and MJE Program Coordinator at LeTourneau University (2012)
  • Ahmad M. Itani, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., F. ASCE, University of Nevada, Reno (2011)
  • John M. Kulicki, P.E., Modjeski and Masters, Inc. (2009)
  • William J. Wright, Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (2008)
  • Donald W. White, Professor of Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials at the Georgia Institute of Technology (2007)
  • Dean C. Krouse, Independent Consulting Metallurgical Engineer (2006)
  • Dennis R. Mertz, Associate Professor, University of Delaware (2005)
  • Camille Rubeiz, former Director of Transportation and Infrastructure at AISI (2003)
  • Professor Karl Frank, University of Texas at Austin (2002); and
  • Mike Grubb, P.E., BSDI Ltd. (2001)

CERF Award

A team consisting of members from AISI, the U.S. Navy’s Carderock Division, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) were awarded the 1997 Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF) Charles Pankow Award for Innovation for the development of high-performance steel for bridges. The award was presented on October 21, 1997 at the CERF annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The Pankow Award for Innovation was established in 1996 to complement existing industry awards. Named for industry visionary Charles J. Pankow, the award recognizes organizations working collaboratively to bring innovative civil engineering ideas into practice. As a leader in the civil engineering industry for nearly 50 years, Pankow was instrumental in launching CERF, and he served as one of the Foundation's first board members and chairman of CERF's New Century Partnership.

For more information, click here.

SMDI Lifetime Achievement Award

Congratulations to Alexander D. Wilson, ArcelorMittal (retired), who was named as an SMDI Lifetime Achievement Award winner in May 2016!

Alex was instrumental in the development and testing of new technologies for the bridge industry, including weathering steel and High-Performance Steel. He made many significant contributions to the steel bridge industry.