U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content
Facebook iconYouTube iconTwitter iconFlickr iconLinkedInInstagram

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

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Back to Publication List        
Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-11-062    Date:  November 2011
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-11-062
Date: November 2011


Improved Corrosion-Resistant Steel for Highway Bridge Construction

PDF Version (2.63 MB)

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®


Plate girder bridges are usually fabricated from painted carbon steels or unpainted weathering steels. Weathering steels, including the modern high-performance steels, offer the lowest life-cycle cost (LCC) over the design life of the bridge because ongoing maintenance due to steel deterioration is not necessary in most service environments. However, in areas where a bridge is subject to high time-of-wetness or high chloride exposures (i.e., coastal areas or areas where large quantities of deicing salt are used), weathering steels are not effective because the protective patina does not develop, and the steel has a high corrosion rate. In these conditions, structural stainless steel ASTM A1010 (UNS S41003) provides sufficient corrosion protection so that painting is not necessary, and the bridge structure is maintenance-free during its design life.(1) The initial cost of stainless steel is more than twice the cost of carbon or weathering steel. Reducing the cost of stainless steel would improve the LCC of bridges in severe corrosion service conditions. This study was undertaken to identify steels with lower potential cost than ASTM A1010 that could be candidates for bridge construction while still providing low corrosion rates.

Jorge E. Pagán-Ortiz
Director, Office of Infrastructure
Research and Development


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.


Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3 Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Improved Corrosion-Resistant Steel for Highway Bridge Construction

5. Report Date

November 2011

6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

Fred B. Fletcher

8. Performing Organization Report No.


9. Performing Organization Name and Address

ArcelorMittal Global R&D-East Chicago
3001 Columbus Drive
East Chicago, IN 46312

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Infrastructure Research and Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Final Report
April 2007–March 2011

14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

The Contracting Officer's Technical Representative (COTR) was Yash Paul Virmani, HRDI-60.

16. Abstract

Alloy steels with 9, 7, and 5 percent chromium (Cr) were designed to reduce the cost of ASTM A1010 steel containing 11 percent Cr. Additions of 2 percent silicon (Si) and/or 2 percent aluminum (Al) were made. The experimental steels could be heat treated to achieve the strength needed for bridges. However, only the ASTM A1010 steel exhibited sufficient impact toughness to be a candidate for bridge construction. The mechanical properties of the experimental steels are not suitable for bridge construction, although they are substantially more corrosion resistant than the conventional weathering steel, ASTM A588.


When studied in the laboratory using cyclic corrosion tests, all of the steels exhibited a relatively linear rate of corrosion with increasing cycle number. As the Cr content decreased, the corrosion rate increased. The corrosion rate of the ASTM A1010 steel was one-tenth of the rate of the ASTM A588 steel. Si was detrimental to corrosion resistance, while Al was beneficial. The corrosion behavior was not a function of the steel yield strength. As the cyclic corrosion cycles increased, the proportion of oxyhydroxide corrosion product akaganeite declined and was replaced by maghemite, goethite, and lepidocrocite. However, the 11 percent Cr steels contained significantly less maghemite than the steels with lower Cr content.


The 9 percent Cr, 7 percent Cr plus 2 percent Si, and 7 percent Cr plus 2 percent Al steels were exposed for 1 year on the heavily salted Moore Drive Bridge in Rochester, NY. Their corrosion rates were approximately one-half the rate of ASTM A588 weathering steel. The rust composition was similar for all three experimental steels.


Life-cycle cost analyses examined the benefits of using a maintenance-free corrosion-resistant steel instead of regularly repainting a conventional steel bridge girder. By the 20th year of service, the probability is over 90 percent that the ASTM A1010 steel girder is less expensive. After 40 years, it becomes certain that the ASTM A1010 steel girder is cheaper than the painted conventional steel.

17. Key Words

Stainless steel, Bridges, Corrosion resistance, Atmospheric corrosion, Steel, Cyclic corrosion test, Maghemite, A1010

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
Form DOT F 1700.7 Reproduction of completed page authorized

SI* (Modern Metric) Conversion Factors








CCTCyclic corrosion test
CICorrosion index
CVNCharpy V-notch
DARust from downward-facing coupon surface
DAURust from under the course rust from the downward-facing surface
DTRust from the top part of the downward-facing surface
FCFracture critical
ELTensile elongation
EUL YSElongation under load yield strength
HBWBrinell Hardness number
ksi1,000 psi
LCCLife-cycle cost
LCVNLongitudinal Charpy V-notch
milOne-thousandth of an inch
mpymil per year
NFCNonfracture critical
RAReduction of area
saSemi-adherent rust
SAESociety of Automotive Engineers
TSTensile strength
UARust from upward-facing coupon surface
UAFFine rust from all upward-facing surfaces
UAURust from under the course rust from the upward-facing surface
UBRust from bottom part of the upward-facing surface
UTRust from top part of the upward-facing surface
USGSUnited States Geological Survey
vaVery adherent rust
XRDX-ray diffraction
XRFX-ray fluorescence
YSYield strength
αGreek letter alpha
βGreek letter beta
γGreek letter gamma
CA1010Cost of the ASTM A1010 steel girder
CconvCost of the conventional painted steel girder
h0Original height of Charpy hammer
hFinal height of Charpy hammer after impacting test specimen
n-valueStrain hardening coefficient in a tensile test
NaClSodium chloride
R2Coefficient of determination
tPaint application time
vDiscount rate of money


Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101