Buchanan County Demonstration Project Sets Stage for New Era in Short Span Steel Bridge Design

At first glance, the newly constructed V-65 Jesup South Bridge near Jesup, Iowa may look like many other short span county bridges that can be found across the U.S. However, the story behind the V-65 Jesup South Bridge is distinctive in the world of bridge design and construction. It is the first-of-its-kind bridge-building project designed using the free eSPAN140 tool that incorporates accelerated steel bridge design practices.

At its heart, this bridge symbolizes new opportunities for bridge owners. Buchanan County Engineer Brian P. Keierleber, P.E., who served as the V-65 Jesup South Bridge Demonstration Project coordinator, confirmed, "Most owners already struggle to repair, rehabilitate or replace aging bridges with ever fewer dollars. We need flexible, speedy alternatives from the engineering and technical community that are cost-effective. eSPAN140 meets those needs and opens the door to other options."

In years past, steel has not always been a consideration for bridge engineers and owners looking for short span bridge design solutions. This is due in large part to the perception that steel is primarily used in more complex bridge construction, typically seen in medium- and long-span bridges.Buchanan South Bridge

Dr. Karl Barth at West Virginia University, a noted expert on short span steel bridge design and key developer of the eSPAN140 tool, explained, "Steel is so often the material of choice for large, complex bridge projects because of its flexibility in meeting specific project requirements. However, its use as a material that needs to be customized for every situation has also created the perception that steel is not equally valuable on standardized, less complex structures."

Hence the development of eSPAN140, a cost-effective and time-saving design tool for steel bridges up to 140 feet in length—in three easy steps and in less than five minutes. With it, bridge owners and designers can obtain preliminary standard designs with speed and ease. (Visit www.espan140.com)

Here is how it was used to facilitate the V-65 Jesup South Bridge Demonstration Project from concept to completion.

Jesup, Iowa's Challenge

The old Jesup South Bridge, located on one of the busiest roads in Buchanan County, was built in 1947 and had a sufficiency rating of 49, making it a prime candidate for replacement. It was narrow with a lot of traffic, and not built for the loads required today. County engineers sought to replace the existing 22-foot-wide bridge with a modern 40-foot-wide bridge with galvanized steel rolled beams and galvanized rebar. Buchanan Bridge

Around the same time, Buchanan County's Keierleber heard about the development of the eSPAN140 tool. In addition, researchers at West Virginia University, the University of Wyoming and the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) were interested in documenting the benefits of the tool.

Keierleber recalls, "When the SSSBA was looking for a demonstration bridge project, I raised my hand and recommended the Jesup South Bridge. I firmly believe that the more competition and options that are available to city and county engineers, the better chance we'll have to economically repair or replace our bridge inventory with the best possible, longest-lasting materials. The demonstration project presented a great opportunity to test out the eSPAN140 tool and see if we could streamline the steel bridge design and construction process."

The first step in the Jesup South Bridge design involved Keierleber entering information about the bridge into the web-based eSPAN140 system. Details included span length, width, overhang, and the number of striped traffic lanes.

In minutes, he received a customized Steel Bridge Solutions file as a PDF download. The Steel Bridge Solutions file included typical bridge cross-sections and roadway widths, travel lanes and shoulders, and more. In addition, the files included the design/fabrication details for standardized rolled beams with shear stud locations, slab thickness, girder spacing, bearing elevations and stiffener positions.

"eSPAN140 is exceptionally user-friendly," said Keierleber. "In Buchanan County, we build quite a few bridges ourselves. eSPAN140 gives me another option. I can compare prices and find the most economical answer in any location. Prior to this, I didn't have that tool and wasn't even looking at steel bridge options." Buchanan Bridge

The Jesup South Bridge design includes a 63-foot span, with two striped traffic lanes, and is supported by five girders.

With design in hand, Keierleber handed over the eSPAN140 design concept of the Jesup South Bridge to a team from the SSSBA, who volunteered time, materials and expertise to show how a simply designed short span steel bridge could move from eSPAN140 concept to roadway reality.

Demonstration Directives

Members of the eSPAN140 demonstration bridge team included AZZ Galvanizing Services (Galvanizing); BlueArc Stud Welding (Shear Studs); D-MAC Industries (Steel Bridge Form); Gerdau-Memphis (Reinforcing Steel: Rebar); Nucor Fastener/Ziegler Bolt & Part Co. (Fasteners); Nucor-Yamato Steel Company (Rolled Beams); Skyline Steel (H-Piles); St. Louis Screw & Bolt (Shear Studs); and U.S. Bridge (Fabrication Railing Materials, Steel Detailing). Expertise was provided by West Virginia University, the University of Wyoming, Iowa State University, and members of the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance.

Dennis Gonano, director of engineering with U.S. Bridge, said, "The steel bridge solutions outlined by eSPAN140 provided enough information to drive the finer detailing requirements and fabrication processes. We also supplemented the construction documents with some Iowa Department of Transportation standards because they were referenced by the county engineer."Buchanan Bridge

Once fabricated, the beams were sent to the AZZ plant to be galvanized. Kevin Irving with AZZ added, "Hot dip galvanizing is a very economical and long-lasting corrosion protection for steel that will protect beams for more than 75 years with little maintenance."

The beams were delivered to the bridge construction site and set on October 2, 2013. The Jesup South Bridge opened to traffic on November 19, 2013.

Local Crews Used to Construct the Bridge

Buchanan County has about 70 more short span bridges that need to be upgraded or replaced. Keierleber is already planning to use the eSPAN140 tool to compare steel solutions with other materials for future projects.

Keierleber said, "This was a great educational project. I have another bridge that is an excellent candidate for the eSPAN140 bridge construction process. What pleased me most about the Jesup South bridge project—beyond the efficiency of design and construction—was that we were able to construct with local crews."

In the past, many county transportation agencies would not have considered using local crews on a project of this size. However, the simplicity of the process and the project allowed Buchanan County to use smaller crews.Buchanan Bridge Crew

"It's just more economical, which in these times of funding cuts, is vital to our ability to update our aging bridge infrastructure," Keierleber added.

"For county engineers like Brian," said Robert Wills, vice president of construction at the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), "the opportunity to see a bridge put in place simply and cost-effectively with a safe design will give them confidence in the eSPAN140 tool to design bridges using steel. Ultimately, our goal is to make sure that bridge engineers have a complete toolbox to develop cost-effective solutions for their bridge repair and replacement challenges. eSPAN140 is the answer to those challenges and the result of that goal."

While the materials for the Jesup South Bridge were donated, case studies for similar short span steel bridges have documented a 25 percent cost advantage when compared to concrete alternatives. Please visit www.shortspansteelbridges.org for more information.

View a time-lapsed video of the Jesup South Bridge construction process:



Inside the Development of eSPAN140

eSPAN140 is an innovative, free, interactive web-based preliminary design tool used to assist bridge professionals in the optimal, most cost-effective design of short span steel bridges (those with spans up to 140 feet). It provides bridge professionals with a single resource to find optimized steel solutions for their projects—a "one-stop shop" for steel fabrication and erection details.

Its development is well-timed, considering the tremendous needs in the industry. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), about half of the 607,380 bridges in the U.S. are owned by counties, cities and townships. Of those, 23.6 percent are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete—and about half of those are bridges of less than 140 feet, considered short span structures.

To facilitate growing needs and encourage owners to consider steel as a bridge alternative, Dr. Karl Barth and others set out to streamline the steel bridge design process. Barth said, "I knew if we could show bridge owners and engineers a way to use standard bridge components in speedy, economical bridge configurations, then we could change the approach to steel bridge delivery across the industry."Buchanan Bridge

The first step was to develop standards that were readily accessible and easy to employ for bridge owners, who may or may not be familiar with steel bridge design.

"Often, a bridge superstructure is a small part of a much bigger roadway challenge, so we wanted them to be able to solve the bridge segment challenges quickly and easily," Barth said.

With input from the National Association of County Engineers Structures Committee, the Federal Highway Administration, and AASHTO T-14 Technical Committee for Structural Steel Design, Barth and other SSSBA members developed the eSPAN140 interactive web-based preliminary design tool.

eSPAN140 contains standard designs for rolled beam, plate girder, and buried soil steel structures. The rolled beam and plate standards were created by a collaborative team of bridge owners (DOT and county engineers), manufacturers, fabricators, service centers, coaters, bridge design experts, academia, and steel professionals who reviewed more than 3,000 potential designs over several years during the eSPAN140 development process.

To use eSPAN140, an engineer simply inputs the bridge length, width and number of striped traffic lanes, typically taking less than five minutes. There's room for other information on the form such as individual parapet width, individual deck overhang width, pedestrian access, waterway area, and cover height (for buried soil steel structures).

Based on the input provided, eSPAN140 creates a customized Steel Bridge Solutions file in PDF format.

The Steel Solutions file includes:

  • Standard designs for rolled beam, plate girder, and buried soil steel structures
  • Manufacturers' customized prefabricated solutions
  • Durability solutions
  • Names and contact information for companies that can design and build your bridge, as well as provide pricing information
  • Access to complimentary professional design support

The customized eSPAN140 solution serves as a preliminary design for using steel, and must be stamped by a professional engineer within a given state before being used to design a short span steel bridge.

Jesup South Bridge Demonstration Project Team

Donating Companies

  • AZZ Galvanizing: Galvanizing
  • BlueArc Stud Welding: Stud Welding
  • Buchanan County, Iowa: Installation/Demolition
  • D-Mac Industries:Stay-in-Place Forms
  • Gerdau-Memphis: Reinforcing Steel: Rebar
  • Nucor Fastener/Ziegler Bolt & Part Co.: Superstructure and Rail Fasteners
  • Nucor-Yamato Steel: Rolled Beams/Girders
  • Skyline Steel: H-Piles for the Integral Abutment System
  • St. Louis Screw & Bolt: Shear Studs
  • U.S. Bridge: Bridge Superstructure Fabric


University Partners

  • Iowa State University: Research
  • University of Wyoming: eSPAN140 Development, Design Coordination and Research
  • West Virginia University: eSPAN140 Development, Design Coordination and Research

About the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance

The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) is the industry resource for information related to short span steel bridges in North America. SSSBA's objective is to provide essential information to bridge owners and designers on the unique benefits, innovative designs, cost competitiveness, and performance related to using steel in short span installations up to 140 feet in length. Alliance partners include bridge and culvert industry leaders, including manufacturers, fabricators and representatives of related associations and government organizations. To learn more visit www.shortspansteelbridges.org or email sssba@steel.org.