A suspension bridge is a unique style of bridge where the deck is hung with suspension cables. The design for this type of bridge only came around in the early 19th century, but it certainly changed the way the world looks at bridges. Some of the most famous and well known bridges in the world are suspension bridges, which makes you wonder…why? These beautiful bridges offer style and functionality, but at what price? Let’s take a deeper look into the advantages and disadvantages that suspension bridges offer.
The Advantages of Suspension Bridges
1. Cost Effective
There is a very minimal amount of materials needed in order to construct a suspension bridge. The only other costs incurred are with the labor involved in building it.
2. Can Be Built High Up
Suspension bridges can be built very high up over waterways. This is essential for any area that needs to be able to allow passing ships to come through.
3. Span Great Lengths
The way that suspension bridges are constructed, and the materials that are used, allow them to be able to span a great distance with minimal materials.
4. Has Flexibility
One common reason that the choice to build a suspension bridge is reached is if it is being built in a high earthquake zone, like California. This is because suspension bridges are flexible due to the cable system they are held up by. The bridge can “move” with the wind and during natural disasters such as an earthquake.
5. Simple Construction
No access is needed from below the bridge while it is being constructed, making it a great choice for areas that ships and waterways need to stay clear.
The Disadvantages of Suspension Bridges
1. Soft Ground Issues
If the suspension bridge needs to be built in an area that has soft ground, like over water, very extensive foundation work in order to make it safe for heavy loads.
2. Too Flexible
Flexibility of the suspension bridge design is a major advantage, until conditions become severe. Underneath extreme winds or very heavy the load the bridge can move so much that the bridge would need to be closed.
3. Cannot Support High Traffic
Since very little support is needed underneath the deck of the bridge, and the cables are light, the bridges are very light weight. This restricts the amount of traffic and the weight of heavy loads that can use it.
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