The Introduction of Modern Timber Bridges in Virginia: A Final Report on the Virginia Timber Bridge Initiative

Report No: 03-R2

Published in 2002

About the report:

In 1990, the Virginia General Assembly established a commission to propose and enhance the economic development of the Southside region of the Commonwealth, the tier of largely rural counties across the southern border. The commission's 1991 report, House Document 42, included a recommendation for a timber bridge initiative to evaluate those structures as replacements for Virginia's structurally deficient bridges. The commission suggested that timber bridges might save highway construction funds and stimulate the forest products industry in Southside Virginia. Subsequently, the Virginia Department of Transportation developed a three-phase research effort that began with the construction of one bridge in each of the state's nine construction districts. This report, which concludes the formal stage of the initiative, addresses the costs, structural performance, and maintenance requirements to date for these structures. Although the performance of the study bridges has been acceptable, there is no indication that timber has been significantly accepted as a bridge construction material at this time. Timber bridges have not proven economically competitive from a first cost standpoint, and their life cycle cost competitiveness cannot be determined at this time. The economic viability of timber bridges is adversely affected by the lack of an industry presence in Virginia. This lack also casts doubt on the ability of the Virginia timber bridge initiative to enhance economic development in the Southside region of the Commonwealth.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Jose P. Gomez, Ph.D., P.E., Wallace T. McKeel, Jr., P.E.

Last updated: December 1, 2023

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