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Bridges: Failures in Design and Construction

Case Studies of Bridge Failures

Video of Tacoma Narrows Collapse

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)

"One hundred years prior to the Tacoma bridge's collapse, much debate had taken place over whether suspesion bridges were safe under any circumstances.  There were known wind problems, and the early to mid-nineteenth century had witnessed a slew of failures.  In the day, John Roebling, a German American civil engineer, studied these failures and devised three basic principles to shepherd the construction of safe bridges.  First, a bridge must be of sufficient mass and inertia to quell excessive wind excitation.  Second, since the wind can either lift up or push down on the bridge, the structure must have stays tying down its deck, either deck to ground or tower to deck.  And third, to be adequately stiff, the bridge must have trusses.  Roebling built a number of bridges with this failsafe formula, most notable the Brokklyn Bridge, completed in 1883."

All three components were eliminated in the design of this bridge... and "from the ruin emerged a long overdue science of bridge aerodynamics."

- from Wind Wizard by Siobhan Roberts, Princeton University Press, 2013

Tay Bridge (1879)

Quebec Bridge (1907 and 1916)