About Impact Recovery Systems

Order Our Catalog

GSA Contract Holder # GS-03-002CA

Click Here to view and download our newsletter archives.

Is an Open Grate Bridge Safe?

The open grate bridge design has been in use across the United States since the mid-1940s.  These structures offered many advantages that, at the time of their construction, made them a good choice for most locations.  Over time, however, their weaknesses have become apparent.  As the country continues to update its infrastructure, the open grate bridge will gradually become a thing of the past.

New Roads for a New World

The end of World War II ushered in the largest peacetime economic expansion in American history.  GIs returning from overseas wanted homes, automobiles, and appliances, which ecstatic business-people were all too happy to provide.  All of this frenetic financial activity brought its own set of problems, however.  The nation's infrastructure required massive expansion in a very short period of time, making innovations like the open grate bridge seem ideal.  These structures are lightweight, largely windproof, and can be assembled in relatively little time.  They easily support multi-ton vehicles and stay free of ice and snow in even the coldest winters.

However, these strengths are offset by a number of troubling disadvantages.  One problem is that automotive tires never make full contact with the grating, reducing braking ability and worsening vehicle collisions.  Also, open grate bridges tend to accumulate large amounts of road salt during the cold season, weakening their frames and causing premature failure. Perhaps the biggest weakness of the design is its inability to accommodate alternate forms of transportation like walking and bike riding.  For these reasons, highway crews are busy replacing these bridges with modern structures made from reinforced concrete.

Anyone remotely familiar with America's infrastructure knows that transportation departments struggle with inadequate financing and excessive workloads.  For these reasons, it may be many years before the last open grate bridge is replaced.  In the meantime, the best way to minimize the risks associated with these structures is to install MUTCD-compliant hazard markers.  Contact Impact Recovery for more information.