Cities, counties, and states are being asked to meet the nation's increased demand for better infrastructure with limited resources. eSPAN140 gives bridge engineers and managers the resources to design, fabricate, and erect economical steel bridges, such as the rolled beam Wheeler Bridge over the Sevier River in Axtell, Utah. Photos: SSSBA
For the first time, eSPAN140 offers a completely Web-based tool that brings together standards for plate, rolled beam, structural plate, and corrugated steel pipe — saving users time and money when selecting steel for bridge designs shorter than 140 feet.

By Michael McGough, PE

In June, the International Bridge Conference keynote speaker, Peter Taylor, PhD, P.Eng., PE, principal at Buckland & Taylor Ltd., told attendees it was time for the bridge industry to “create tables of standard beams, having minimum weights, for American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' bridge loads.”

This was a timely message for the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA), which was launching a new Web-based design tool, eSPAN140, at the event. This summer, more than 1,000 bridge engineers have already signed up to use it.

The tool was developed by experts from SSSBA and the steel industry to save engineers significant time and money designing short-span steel bridges and culverts, specifically for crossings less than 140 feet long. eSPAN140 works by sorting through users' specific project details and recommending the most economical options for steel construction. It is the first completely Web-based tool to provide standards for the most common design types — plate, rolled beam, structural plate, and corrugated steel pipe — in one location. The alliance plans to include more variations to future releases of the tool.

Project stakeholders spent three years reviewing more than 3,000 potential designs for inclusion in the new tool. Stakeholders included steel manufacturers, fabricators, service centers, coaters, researchers, and representatives of related associations and government organizations such as the National Association of County Engineers , Steel Market Development Institute , National Steel Bridge Alliance, and American Galvanizers Association.


STEP 1 — Go to

STEP 2 — Create a free user's account

STEP 3 — Input your specific project details (including span length, roadway length, height of cover, number of striped traffic lanes, and pedestrian access)

STEP 4 — View your customized “Solutions Book.”

A user-friendly resource

Bridge owners and designers simply key in the design parameters for their projects (i.e., span length, roadway width, skew angle, average daily traffic, waterway area, and height-of-fill details), and the tool quickly delivers customized designs. These solutions contain fabrication and loading details for all available corrugated steel pipe and structural plate shapes, profiles, and gages — as well as standard designs, details, and prefabricated options for rolled beam and plate girders.

The eSPAN140 system saves individual project details so they can be easily duplicated for quick adjustments if project parameters change. The application generates a custom Steel Bridge Solutions PDF with standard designs, shape sizes, profiles, and gages to consider for each project. The book also includes optimized steel-girder prefabricated options, coating recommendations, and a list of key industry contacts who can advise on specific projects.

Design expertise delivered

Behind its new interface, eSPAN140 operates with technical data provided by SSSBA's research and development partners at West Virginia University and the National Corrugated Steel Pipe Association.

Rolled beam and plate girder standards were developed by West Virginia University researchers who studied existing state standards to assess the feasibility and cost benefits of compiling standardized plans into a comprehensive short-span package. Then they assessed economic detailing, fabrication practices, superstructure design characteristics and design economy, and construction practices. With this data, and extensive analysis and testing, the team developed optimum national designs and details for spans from 40 to 120 feet.

The eSPAN140 design tool also provides guidance for building durable culverts that minimize disturbance to streams and rivers. It includes standards provided by the National Corrugated Steel Pipe Association for corrugated steel pipe and structural plate (CSP) culverts, based on its Corrugated Steel Pipe Design Manual. The manual focuses on special design considerations, rehabilitation, and maintenance of corrugated steel pipe.

“I have confidence in these bridge designs and details, as they were developed by university researchers who are national experts,” says Brian P. Keierleber, PE, county engineer for Buchanan County, Iowa. “eSPAN140 gives me a design I can take to a fabricator, which saves time for me and precious funds for our county.”

Technical support

SSSBA's Bridge Technology Center offers training on the use of its short-span steel bridge resources. Half-day workshops and webinars are available for engineers, county and state engineer associations, and other groups interested in short-span steel bridge solutions.

The workshops also cover technical topics such as economical and practical detailing, weathering steel applications, and steel bridge case studies. A schedule of upcoming workshops and webinars is available at the allisance's website, under “Calendar of Events.”

For details, or to request a workshop, visit here or contact Dan Snyder, Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance director, at 202-452-7100 or

— McGough ( is chief engineer for the National Corrugated Steel Pipe Association.


The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) website serves as a technical support center for bridge designers and owners, offering complementary design expertise via the Bridge Technology Center. Users can also find:

  • Steel solutions — A catalog that covers superstructure, substructure, decks, modular systems, secondary elements, and transporters
  • Case studies — Technical articles and videos detailing how other counties and state DOTs saved time and money by using a variety of steel design solutions
  • Video and photo gallery — Videos of expert testimonies regarding cost considerations, design tips, modular construction, coatings, etc., and an image gallery that illustrates short-span steel bridge design solutions
  • Technical design resources — Design aids and research reports on short-span steel bridge solutions
  • Blog — Up-to-date information on topics of interest to bridge owners and designers
  • Social media — Follow SSSBA on Twitter and connect to the alliance on LinkedIn to keep up with new resources
  • Newsletter — The latest updates on short-span steel bridge activities and events.