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FHWA Home / Highways for LIFE / Technology Partnerships / Bridge Technology / Composite Bridge Decking, Final Project Report

Composite Bridge Decking, Final Project Report


  1. Introduction
  2. Numerical Modeling and Validation
  3. Deck Fabrication
  4. Deck Installation
  5. Conclusions and Lessons Learned

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
AASHTO American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
CSM Chopped strand mat
FRP Fiber-reinforced polymer
LRFD Load and Resistance Factor Design
MSDS Material safety data sheet
SG Strain gage
VARTM Vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.

1. Report No.

2. Government Accession No.

3. Recipient's Catalog No.

4. Title and Subtitle
Composite Bridge Decking: Final Project Report

5. Report Date
March 2013

6. Performing Organization Code

7. Author(s)
J. S. O’Connor, P.E., F.ASCE

8. Performing Organization Report No.

9. Performing Organization Name and Address
BridgeComposites, LLC
121 Upper Bennett St.
Hornell, NY 14843-1451

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.

12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address
Federal Highway Administration
Highways for LIFE Program – HIHL-1
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

14. Sponsoring Agency Code

15. Supplementary Notes

16. Abstract
The overall objective of this Highways for LIFE Technology Partnerships project was to find the optimal materials and methods to fabricate a composite bridge deck based on a prototype devised by the University at Buffalo, under the sponsorship of New York State Department of Transportation. Benefits of this type of deck are their resistance to corrosion and fatigue, their light weight, and the ability to prefabricate into panels that can be installed on a bridge quickly to minimize disruption to traffic and improve safety.

The process used to fabricate deck panels was improved by combining consistent-quality pultruded subcomponents with a vacuum-infused outer wrap. The strength and stiffness were first determined analytically using finite element methods, then validated independently with extensive full-scale laboratory testing. Details of the installation were demonstrated on a 40-foot-long bridge during August 2012. After a two-course wearing surface was applied, the bridge was instrumented and load tested to further refine the finite element model.

The numerical model was found to be a reliable and accurate representation of actual conditions, with predicted strains and deflections within 5 percent of what was measured in the field. With working stresses less than 25 percent of the material’s ultimate strength, a sudden failure of the deck is virtually impossible. Furthermore, panels purposely overloaded in the lab exhibited a pseudo-ductile behavior and had residual strength after failure. The 5-inch-thick composite deck carried two 35-ton test trucks during a field test, with a self-weight of about 20 psf. The lightweight deck helped improve the load rating of the bridge, which was a priority for the owner.

The end result of the project is a robust, high-quality deck suitable for many applications, including moveable bridges, historic trusses, and posted bridges. Because the initial material cost is higher than conventional alternatives, future use may be restricted to situations where the rapid installation offsets the cost of maintenance and protection of traffic, or where the light weight is especially important, such as on moveable, deteriorated or historic structures. In any case, the total life cycle cost is competitive because of the material's innate resistance to deterioration (such as corrosion and fatigue).

17. Key Words
Fiber-reinforced polymer composite, FRP, bridge decking

18. Distribution Statement
No restrictions. This document is available to the public through the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161.

19. Security Classification (of this report)

20. Security Classification (of this page)

21. No. of Pages

22. Price

Approximate Conversions to SI Units
Symbol When You Know Multiply By To Find Symbol
in inches 25.4 millimeters mm
ft feet 0.305 meters m
yd yards 0.914 meters m
mi miles 1.61 kilometers km
in2 square inches 645.2 square millimeters mm2
ft2 square feet 0.093 square meters m2
yd2 square yard 0.836 square meters m2
ac acres 0.405 hectares ha
mi2 square miles 2.59 square kilometers km2
fl oz fluid ounces 29.57 milliliters mL
gal gallons 3.785 liters L
ft3 cubic feet 0.028 cubic meters m3
yd3 cubic yards 0.765 cubic meters m3
NOTE: volumes greater than 1000 L shall be shown in m3
oz ounces 28.35 grams g
lb pounds 0.454 kilograms kg
T short tons (2000 lb) 0.907 megagrams (or "metric ton") Mg (or "t")
Temperature (exact degrees)
°F Fahrenheit 5 (F-32)/9
or (F-32)/1.8
Celsius °C
fc foot-candles 10.76 lux lx
fl foot-Lamberts 3.426 candela/m2 cd/m2
Force and Pressure or Stress
lbf poundforce 4.45 newtons N
lbf/in2 poundforce per square inch 6.89 kilopascals kPa

*SI is the symbol for the International System of Units. Appropriate rounding should be made to comply with
Section 4 of ASTM E380. (Revised March 2003)

Page last modified on June 29, 2016
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