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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems (PFBES)


Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems (PFBES)

Problem: Transportation agencies are challenged to improve safety, reduce congestion, and undertake necessary construction projects

The top priority of transportation agencies is to stem the loss of more than 40,000 lives each year to crashes. At the same time, transportation agencies are committed to offering motorists high-quality, longer lasting highways and bridges while reducing construction time and traffic congestion that, taken together, cost the Nation $63 billion each year in wasted time and fuel. These agencies, however, also operate against a backdrop of challenges: a need for intensified construction activities to restore the Nations aging transportation system, which largely was built in the 1950s and 1960s; capacity that has increased little in the past two decades; and growing communities and increasing traffic volumes.

Solution: Prefabrication minimizes traffic disruptions

Prefabricated bridge construction can help minimize traffic delays and community disruptions by reducing onsite construction time and improving quality, traffic control, and safety.

Using prefabricated bridge elements and systems means that time-consuming formwork construction, curing, and other tasks associated with fabrication can be done off site in a controlled environment without affecting traffic.

Putting It in Perspective
Approximately one-third of the Nation's 590,000 bridges require rehabilitation or replacement. Bridge repair, rehabilitation, and replacement activities, however, can significantly impact bridge users. For example, full lane closures in large urban centers or on highways due to bridge projects can have a significant economic impact on commercial and industrial activities. In many cases, the direct and indirect costs of traffic detours, the loss of the use of the bridge during construction, and the disruption to the local economy caused by a bridge project can exceed the actual cost of the bridge structure. Lane closures and other bridge activities also can lead to safety issues. Because of these potential economic impacts and safety concerns, minimizing traffic disruptions during bridge rehabilitations and repairs is a critical issue that should be considered as important as maintaining construction quality and reducing the life cycle costs and environmental impacts of the bridge.



  • Minimizes traffic impacts of bridge construction projects.
  • Improves construction zone safety.
  • Makes construction less disruptive to the environment.
  • Increases quality.
  • Reduces life cycle costs.


Successful Applications: More than 11 States are actively pursuing PFBES as a standard practice.

The Washington State Department of Transportation, for example, used prefabricated elements to replace 1,189 meters (3,900 feet) of bridge deck on the Lewis and Clark Bridge over a period of 120 nights, with 4 weekend closures and little or no impact on rush-hour traffic. The Virginia Department of Transportation replaced a bridge along Interstate 95 over the James River using prefabricated elements. The project took place over 135 nights, with no road closures during rush-hour traffic. Both of these projects were not just completed faster, but also came in under budget, at a price lower than the engineer's estimate.

National Deployment Statement

Using PFBES reduces traffic and environmental impacts by minimizing the need for lane closures, detours, and the use of narrow lanes.

National Deployment Goal

By 2009, PFBES technology will be used on a regular basis in 35 States.

National Deployment Status

Forty presentations were made to national and international conferences and workshops. A marketing plan was drafted in collaboration with HFL. FHWA sponsored five ABC showcases in MN, OR, FL, RI and UT, which were attended by more than 300 engineers from states and industry. Decision Framework and SPMT “how to” manual for moving complete bridges into place was published and posted on the web. A connection detail manual for PBES applications was also drafted.

Phase of Deployment

PHASE III-Delivery Activities

  • Face-to-face communication
  • Conduct presentations
  • Conduct pilot
  • Conduct training and education
  • Public/ private partnerships

Additional Resources

Visit the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) PFBES Web site at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/abc/prefab.cfm.
To learn more about AASHTO-TIG's approved technologies, visit http://tig.transportation.org.

For More Information Contact:

Vasant Mistry, FHWA Office of Bridge Technology
vasant.mistry@fhwa.dot.gov, 202-366-4599


To request additional copies of this publication, contact:

TaMara McCrae
FHWA Corporate Research, Technology, and Innovation Management
Phone: 202-493-3382
E-mail: tamara.mccrae@fhwa.dot.gov


PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®


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