Bridge Spring Cleaning – Keeping Your Bridges Strong & Healthy No. 8
Bridge spring cleaning

Bridge spring cleaning

Spring is just around the corner, bringing spring cleaning with it. So why not spring clean your bridges?

There are several specific tasks that townships can do each spring to help preserve and extend their structure’s useful life. A simple one that most municipalities do is to broom off and remove all cinders and other gravel material on bridge decks from winter maintenance. This should be done on all deck types, including timber, bituminous, and concrete.

A more important task that is often overlooked is cleaning those same cinders and debris from the steel horizontal surfaces and beam seats below a bridge with an open steel grid deck. Too often during our bridge inspections, we identify steel beam deterioration at the bearings from debris buildup adjacent to the beam flanges and webs (see photos below).

Bridge spring cleaning Bridge spring cleaning

The debris, which includes road salt from winter maintenance, traps lots of moisture, which actively corrodes and rapidly deteriorates the steel surfaces it comes into contact with. Over time, the beam’s web and flanges deteriorate to a serious condition, with 100% section loss in the beam section (see photo below).Bridge spring cleaning

Once the beam reaches this state, steel beam repairs are required to keep the structure open to traffic, which is never cheap.

Taking a bit of time in the spring and fall to remove gravel debris from around all steel surfaces will go a long way in preserving your structure’s useful life and to avoid steel beam repairs.

In summary, here are some useful spring cleaning tips:

  1. Broom off all debris and cinders from bridge decks.
  2. Clean and remove debris and cinders from all steel horizontal surfaces on open steel grid deck structures.
  3. Clean and remove debris and cinders from all bridge beam bearing areas.
  4. Ensure all bridge signage is in place and not lying on the ground from frost heave or snow plow impact
  5. Check that all guide rail is secured and undamaged.


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