Literature Review Chapter: Comparison of Cable Stayed and Suspension Bridges

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¶ … Cable-Stayed and Suspension Bridges

Case Studies-

Of the different types of bridges the comparison between the suspension bridge and the cable stayed bridge is feasible because of the similarities. There are other types of bridges that are widely used. For example, the Arch Bridge which is found from prehistoric times. The arch sustains heavy loads and the arches are designed to support more loads than that can pass to ensure that the bridge does not collapse. Being the oldest and most used bridge form, the Arc Bridge is very common. However our discussion relates to suspension bridge and the cable stayed bridge. The principal difference between the suspension bridge and the cable stated bridge is the fact that 'suspension bridge' was constructed by the ancient communities using rope and bamboo. The principles of cables and towers are at each end with strong plates and the bridge is found in ancient bridge works. The cables and the towers support the plank or bridge each half way across. The suspension bridge has a curved tension member. The cables can only carry tension loads. Cables cause compression in the towers. Some of the advantages are that the suspension bridges are very light and therefore can span very large distances without additional reinforcement or support. (Arch, Suspension, Beam, Truss, Cable-stayed-Five bridge types)

On the other hand the cable-stayed type of bridge is quite modern and is economical. Unlike suspension bridges they are not useful in long spans. It can be used with moderate spans that can have a single pylon or tower. The weight of one side of the bridge would balance the weight of the other side. These are two types of bridges that are not interchangeable in the sense that we cannot use the span bridge in the place of the cable bridges. The span is small because of poor economy and the cable bridges may not be a great idea to span huge distances. However the comparison may narrow down the bridges scope and may be useful in creating a hybrid type, because the principle of suspension is both for the bridges.

So what can be accomplished by a comparison? In this paper a comparison between both these types are attempted, not with a view to create a case for one or the other types of bridges, but to explore if it is possible to fuse the excellent features of the span and cable bridges can be combined to cover very long spans that are not possible in both. In analyzing the bridges the general types of bridges and their uses have also to be considered. While this may be a part of literature review, it is pointed out that the bridges have to be seen according to their function also. The topography is also important. The type of construction is determined by the use and topography. The need for clearance, for e.g. over a river is used for flooding and span over a big valley or could be used as an aqueduct. The duration of the use also determine the type. Suspension bridges are the type recommended for a bridge that requires very long spans. (Vikctor, 2007, p. 11) This takes the investigation to the history and background of each of the types of the bridge system. The background analysis of the history and advantages of the bridge systems and the theoretical speculations involved therefore is taken up next.

2. Background

So what is a bridge? A bridge is defined as a structure that can provide passage over an obstacle without creating any closure of what lies beneath. In other words the bridge is distinguished from a bund which is again an elevated way over an obstacle, but the obstacle like a chasm is filled so that the way continues unhindered. The six basic forms of a bridge are the arch bridges that have come down from antiquity, cantilever bridge, beam bridges, truss bridges, suspension bridges and cable stayed bridges. In the case of the beam bridge, a beam is created between the points that must be crossed and it bears the load by flexure. The truss bridge also is similar to the beam bridge and the difference is that it takes the load by bending. The arch bridge uses the compression caused at each end of the arch to bear the load passing above the arches. (Dayaratnam, 2000, p. 20)

The Cantilever bridge has three spans with the ends of the spans resting on either end or the centre span supported by a channel in the middle and the tower or stay is in the middle of the span. The suspended bridge is similar but the stays are at the ends. The curved cables of the suspension bridge match gravity and carry the load from one end to the other and the loads are transferred to the ground via the towers at the end. As opposed to this in the cable stayed bridge the nearly straight cables carry the vertical load points from a tower and the cables transfer the load through the vertical compression of the tower from either side. The tensile forces of the cables create a horizontal compression on the dock. These are some of the bridges available today. (Dayaratnam, 2000, p. 21)

The primary method of comparison is therefore to analyze the differences of the bridge types and the suspension bridges get the priority on their historical and span values. Looking at the history of the suspension bridges, they have their origin in India and China. There are some old bridges that were built in the high Himalayan ranges and still exist. Modern suspension bridges are clustered around in the U.S., China, Japan and Europe. Mentionable bridges are the Brooklyn Bridge that has a span of 486m, being the first stele wire cable in the world. The George Washington Bridge with a span of 1067m is the modern biggest suspension bridge. The technical problems that affected the bridges come to light after some disasters. For example the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge at Puget Sound, Washington on account of a gale that reached 68 km/h had engineers to consider the wind effects on suspension bridges. Thus today the aerodynamic effects on suspension bridges are a major consideration as far as suspension bridges are concerned. (Vikctor, 2007, p. 14)

So the aerodynamics of bridges came to be considered in bridge design. The span of the bridge and the way the cables take the load are also factors that came to be researched later when many cost and economic considerations in bridge building and the availability of new materials like concrete and tensile steel changed the way the construction came to be seen. This also prompted experiment in other form of bridges one being the cable stayed bridge although the existence of the type of bridge was from antiquity. The cable stay bridges can be only for a short span. Cable stayed bridges are specified to be more suited for a span from 200 to about 900 meters and is claimed to be the in-between that can be used where the box glider bridges will not do and where suspension bridge would not be necessary. (Vikctor, 2007, p. 17) The difference and history of these types and recent development have been considered in the literature review following.

3. Literature Review

Of late Brown (2001, p. 103) has given a very detailed historical analysis of bridges and has stressed more on the span bridges. On the spans of bridges and suspension bridges we have the works of Sir Alfred Pugsley (1957, p. 25). But if we consider the historical analysis of the bridges throws some interesting observations. For example much of the research and the engineering ideas originated with the growth of railways and the need to create bridges that were strong enough to withstand the motion of trains and loads. Thus two centuries ago the engineers were concerned with the load bearing capacity of the bridge and the span of the bridges. For example, Cowper (1847, p. 5) concerned with the railway bridges wrote a tract in the engineering journal on suspension bridges for the railway. We can notice some innovation and detailed discussion on the span and the bridge and some new innovations. For example the paper is about the way of preventing the deformation of the shape of the suspension bridge by the weights or a passing load. The railway bridges are made mostly of stone and Cowper in his tract proposes a suspension bridge for the railway made of iron and which cannot only bear the traffic but can be economical in the construction for long spans. (Cowper, 1847, p. 5)

These types of innovations not only bettered the way for the construction of bridges with a great span when the suspension principle was adopted, but the innovation that was proposed in the construction of the suspension bridges for railways dealt with the curves of the chains of the bridge called… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Comparison of Cable Stayed and Suspension Bridges.  (2011, May 27).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from

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"Comparison of Cable Stayed and Suspension Bridges."  27 May 2011.  Web.  25 May 2019. <>.

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"Comparison of Cable Stayed and Suspension Bridges."  May 27, 2011.  Accessed May 25, 2019.