6 Advantages and Disadvantages of Arch Bridges

Arch bridges are classic architectural structures utilized by humankind for thousands of years. Basic arch elements are present not only in bridges, but also in ancient buildings, temples, and towers. Their simple yet structurally sound design gives them advantage over other bridge design, as they provide maximum load support. However, there is no perfect or flawless bridge design, and so we list here the advantages and disadvantages of arch bridges.

List of Advantages of Arch Bridges

1. Get Stronger Over Time
It is amazing how arch bridges get stronger the more they are used. Since arch bridges are designed to compress, this compression causes the materials to become more compact and closer to each other, firming the foundation and enabling the bridges to withstand heavier loads.

2. Provide High Resistance
The curved or arched design allows the bridges to displace or spread the weight evenly. Its foundations are fixed firmly on the ground yet its arched element helps the even displacement of force on top of the arch bridges, preventing the weight from pressing too hard on one area and weakening that single area over time.

3. Made with Various Materials
Arch bridges are basic design that does not demand a particular material. It may be built with traditional materials such as brick and mortar, and does not even require steel bars or other modern materials. For this reason, arch bridges are popular designs adopted by ancient builders throughout the world.

List of Disadvantages of Arch Bridges

1. Have Limited Span
It is important for the foundations to be fixed and for the arches to be of certain radius. The higher the arch radius, the higher the tension, and the weaker the bridge. For longer arch bridges, more arches are built. However, the cost and time needed to create multiple arches considerably limit the span or length of arch bridges.

2. Time-Consuming to Build
As mentioned, it takes time to build arch bridges. It takes double or triple the amount of time needed to build other bridge designs. The arches have to be made with precision to ensure its strength and longevity. They need to be symmetrical to ensure equal displacement of weight.

3. Require Ongoing Maintenance
Maintaining arch bridges can be costly because simple cracks and damages due to extreme weather, and natural wear and tear can compromise the bridges’ safety. The mortar that binds the materials together also become weak over time and needs regular upkeep.

Arch bridges are aesthetically pleasing, and are one of the first architectural designs adopted by ancient builders due to their strength and simplicity. Today, natural materials widely used by ancient builders are scarce, so building traditional arch bridges is costly or virtually impossible. Modern arch bridges make use of contemporary building materials such as steel bars and concrete. However, because of their short span and cost, arch bridges are no longer as popular as they were before.