Civil Engineering

Understanding the various types of arch bridges

Although the Etruscans and ancient Greeks were already aware of true arch bridges, the Romans were the first to fully appreciate the possibilities of arches for bridge construction, much as they did with the vault and the dome. A list of Roman bridges put together by the engineer Colin O’Connor includes 54 Roman aqueduct bridges, 330 Roman stone bridges for traffic, and 34 Roman timber bridges, with a large portion remaining standing and even being utilized to carry vehicles.  The Italian historian Vittorio Galliazzo discovered 931 Roman bridges, most of which were made of stone, in as many as 26 different nations (including former Yugoslavia).

The shape of the arch rib—a circular arc or a parabola—is one of several factors that can be used to categorize arch bridges. However, the classification in this part concentrates on the building materials, deck placements, and structural systems.

Particularly in the 14th century, bridge construction reached unprecedented heights. With arch types as diverse as semi-circular, pointed, and segmental arches, span lengths of 40 m (130 ft), previously unheard of in the history of masonry arch construction, were now achieved in locations as diverse as Spain (Puente de San Martin), Italy (Castelvecchio Bridge), and France (Devil’s bridge and Pont Grand). Even the Trezzo sull’Adda bridge, which was destroyed in the fifteenth century, had a span length of 72 m (236 ft), which was not surpassed until 1796. Well in this article we’ll be answering questions based on arch bridges

Arch Bridges

  • What is an arch bridge?
  • What are the types of arch bridges?
  • How to construct an arch bridge?
  • What are the famous arch bridges around the world?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of arch bridges?


What is an arch bridge?

A bridge with curving arch-shaped abutments at each end is referred to as an arch bridge. Arch bridges function by partially converting the bridge’s weight and its loads into a horizontal thrust that is constrained by the abutments on each side. A viaduct (a long bridge) can be built using a sequence of arches, however more modern, less expensive designs are usually preferred.

One of the earliest types of bridges, arch bridges have good inherent strength. They were first built with stone or brick, but are now made with ferroconcrete or steel. But now arch bridges can now be longer and have smaller spans thanks to the development of those new materials.

Civil engineers like Thomas Telford, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and John Rennie continued to construct stone and brick arches in more recent periods. Jean-Rodolphe Perronet, a significant innovator, used significantly thinner piers, updated calculating techniques, and unusually low span-to-rise ratios. Arch bridges are being built out of a variety of materials, including cast iron, steel, and concrete.

What are the types of arch bridges?

  • Deck Arch Bridge
  • Through Arch Bridge
  • Moment Tied Arch
  • Fixed‐Fixed Concrete Arch
  • Pinned‐Pinned Concrete Arch
  • Bowstring Arch
  • Moment Tied Arch
  • Aqueducts and canal viaducts
  • Corbel arch bridge

Deck Arch Bridge

Via a structure that is placed on top of the arch’s crown, the arch bridge is responsible for directly supporting the traffic loads. For this reason, the deck bridge’s arch is regarded as the ideal arch.

A spandrel is a region that is between a deck and an arch. A closed-spandrel deck arch bridge is one whose spandrel is solid (i.e., made of stone or masonry).

Through Arch Bridge

Through Arch Bridge

It is the bridge where the upper deck is located near the arch’s spring line. Another name for it is the half-through arch bridge. The deck is where its base is, while its top rises above it.

It is often built with steel or reinforced concrete as the building materials. As with a deck arch bridge, the end portions of this bridge are supported from below while the middle portion is suspended from the arch by suspension cables or tie bars.

Moment Tied Arch

Moment Tied Arch

The floor beams are attached to a tie to produce an affiliation between the arch and the tie in this sort of arch bridge.

Fixed Concrete Arch

Fixed Concrete Arch

Wherever the spans are short, the mounted arch is used in the construction of concrete bridges and tunnels. Internal stress is increased as a result of heat expansion and contraction.

Pinned Concrete Arch

Pinned Concrete Arch

This enables rotation for even the smallest low moment and supports that which cannot resist. Some resistance can also be provided by the friction between the two connected pieces. At the rotational side, roller support allows for linear motion.

Bowstring Arch

Bowstring Arch

In this type of arch bridge, the unsymmetrical flexure is carried by the arch, and the tension tie only supports the axial load. Three-pin cord arch is the scale.

Aqueducts and canal viaducts

Aqueducts and canal viaducts

The ancient Romans created a series of supports that were joined by stone arches in order to span great distances. Yet, unlike a typical bridge, this collection of arching constructions had several layers that could reach amazing heights.

Corbel arch bridge

Corbel arch bridge

They are produced by successively laying down layers of stone or masonry, each with bigger cantilevers.

Read more: Bridges: everything about bridges, their types, and main parts

How to construct an arch bridge?

Below shows the steps involved in arch bridge construction.

Step 1: Understand the Science

stone bridges are all supported by arches. Although stone has poor tensile and shear force resistance, it has excellent compressive resistance, with a density of 28,000 pounds per square inch. Hence, we must incorporate that into our bridge. We accomplish this by building a squared-off rock arch that is parallel to the arch’s radius.

Step 2: Plan Your Bridge

Building a bridge implies that you want it to cross something, in my opinion. Calculate the length of your bridge based on the width of that object in order to bridge the gap. (If the bridge will span a creek, for instance, make sure that its arc’s diameter is less than the channel’s width. In this manner, the bridge is pressed into the bank of the stream by the lateral force created by the blocks pressing together; this bridge is considerably less likely to move than anything else you construct.

Step 3: Pour a Concrete Footing

Pour now a sturdy concrete base that will serve as the foundation for both bridge sides. Make it at least 18 “6 inches broader than the base of the bridge and 6 inches below the level of the streambed. Pour concrete at least eight inches thick, and then reinforce it with 12-inch grids of 1/2” rebar “. Just hiring a concrete truck to pour it for you is what I advise. Using a company to carry the concrete would certainly save you a ton of time and money because you will usually need at least 2 cubic yards of it.

Step 4: Build Your Wooden Support Frame

It’s starting to get exciting now! This is where you construct the wooden insert that will support the stones of your bridge as you construct it. Plot your arc initially onto a sheet of 3/4″ plywood. Holding the plywood upright while its long edge is on the ground is the simplest way to accomplish this. Next, take a length of twine and fasten it to one of the plywood’s top corners. After you have a great arc extending from one corner to the other, release more and more string while holding the string up to the other corner. Although it sounds awkward, this is a fantastic way to simulate the compressive load on the bridge.

The simplest approach to represent this on a curve since the stones will be taking pure compressive force is to reverse it by plotting it with pure tensile force (the string). The result will be a parabolic arch, which will disperse the bridge’s weight along your arc. Once your arc has been drawn on the plywood, cut two sections that are identical. Next, use your 2×6 boards to span the 4′ space between your two arched plywood boards, cutting them to the width of your bridge (let’s say 4 feet). one 2×6 every 12 places “all the way around the ramp’s curve. then take 1/4 of that “Plywood can be used to make a bridge insert that resembles a large cylinder that has been sliced in half and hollowed out by screwing it as a veneer over your 2×6 boards.

Step 5: Cut Your Stones

This method or a straightforward masonry chisel is used to cut each stone that we use. You can use a diamond tooth concrete saw blade to size your stones, making the process simpler and yielding more finished cuts.

The fundamental rule is that it makes no difference how large or thick your arch support stones are. Just the fact that they are all the same width is important. This is important because you want your ring of support stones to be uniformly wide so that you can distribute compression evenly.

Read more: Construction site workers: Roles, Qualifications, and Safety Tips

What are the famous arch bridges around the world?

Below shows the famous arch bridges around the world;

  • Chaotianmen Bridge.
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • New River Gorge Bridge.
  • Bayonne Bridge.
  • Rialto Bridge.
  • Zhijing River Bridge.
  • Mingzhou Bridge.
  • Ponte Vecchio.
  • Stone Arch Bridge.
  • Stari Most.

Read more: Construction technology: meaning, types, advantages, and disadvantages

What are the advantages and disadvantages of arch bridges?

Below are the advantages and disadvantages of arch bridges;


Comes with no distortion

An arch bridge’s half-circle shape is purposefully created to ensure that no distortion or damage would occur to the structure due to intense pressure or weight.

Structurally sound

Due to the long span of the arch bridge and the use of lighter materials in its construction, but the modern version of the arch bridge has a sensible sound and is structurally sound.

Design is good in terms of pressure

While building a bridge, an arch design will cause the weight of whatever traverses it to fall directly. This is frequently done to make sure that no one area of the bridge could withstand a lot of pressure.

Provides a better level of resistance

The aciform shape of an arch bridge provides an associated unnatural strength purpose that enables the structure to have higher degrees of resistance to the bending forces that have the ability to change its kind.

Aesthetically pleasing

Due to their exquisite shape, arch bridges are frequently considered to be visually pleasing.

Offers economic advantages

People are supposed to be able to travel short distances at a reasonable cost using an arch bridge, which benefits the local economy.

Becomes stronger because it works

In their architectural design, arch bridges are given a lot of dead weight on top of each arch, and they can support loads using natural processes wherever they gain strength.

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The arch bridge FAQs

What is an arch bridge used for?

Due to their distinctive appearance, arch bridges are second in popularity to suspension and cable-stayed bridges for long-span bridges. Depending on the geometry of the arches and the number of hinges, different arches have different structural characteristics.

What is a bridge that has an arch?

One of the earliest types of bridges, arch bridges are quite strong by nature. An arch bridge’s weight is distributed to the supports at each end by pushing outward along the curve of the arch rather than straight down.

What is 1 advantage of an arch bridge?

The main benefits of arch bridges are their resistance to bending forces, pressure resistance, capacity to be manufactured from almost any material, structural soundness, lack of distortion, improved strength over time, and economic benefits.

What are the two types of arch bridges?

Deck arch bridge: A typical arch bridge with the deck perched above the arch.

Through arch bridge: A bridge where a portion of the deck travels below the arch and is connected to it through cables or tie bars rather than being entirely above it.

What are the three types of arch bridges?

The various kinds of arch bridges are as follows: Arch Deck Bridge. via way of Arch Bridge. Time-bound Arch.

Why is the arch so important?

They created an arch that could hold enormous weights, laying the framework for some of the most significant developments in architectural history. The arch evolved into a crucial component of aqueducts, sewers, gates, and bridges, all essential to modernizing urban centers.

When should arch bridges be used?

If you intend to build it beside a river, you will need sturdy piles that can withstand shear similar to horizontal responses, which is a laborious process. Arch bridges are therefore used to cross particularly deep valleys or areas with sturdy rocks at the ends.

That’s all for this article where the answers to these questions were answered

  • What is an arch bridge?
  • What are the types of arch bridges?
  • How to construct an arch bridge?
  • What are the famous arch bridges around the world?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of arch bridges?

I hope it was helpful, if so, kindly share. Thanks for reading.