What are the potential advantages of continuous multiple-span deck over simply supported multiple-span deck?

Movement joints are normally added to bridge structures to accommodate movements due to dimensional changes arising from temperature variation, shrinkage, creep and effect of prestress. However, the provision of excessive movement joints should be avoided in design because movement joints always encounter problems giving rise to trouble in normal operation and this increases the cost of maintenance. Some designers may prefer to add more movement joints to guard against possible occurrence of differential settlements. However, the effect of continuity is disabled by this excessive introduction of movement joints.

From structural point of view, the use of continuous deck enhances the reduction of bridge deck thickness. Moreover, deck continuity allows the potential increase in headroom in the mid-span of bridges by using sucker deck principle.

Some designers may prefer to employ the use of simply supported multiple-span deck to guard against possible occurrence of differential settlements. However, the effect of continuity is undermined by the introduction of movement joints. In essence, the structural reserve provided by a continuous bridge is destroyed by the multiple-span statically determinate structure resulting from the addition of joints. Moreover, the reduction of joints in bridge structures represents substantial cost savings arising from the construction and maintenance costs of movement joints. The reduction of deck thickness helps to cut the cost for both the deck and foundation. In particular, the number of bearings in each piers is substantially reduced when compared with the case of simply supported multiple-span deck.

Ref: A Self Learning Manual – Mastering Different Fields of Civil Engineering Works (VC-Q-A-Method) by Vincent T. H. CHU.

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