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2.1.3 Bridge

General Criteria for Lateral Clearance


Bridge undercrossing geometrics must rationalize safety requirements


with costs and physical controls such as span length and permissible depth of structure. The following guidelines apply in establishing these geometrics:

1) Safety Piers, abutments, side slopes and back slopes steeper than 1:3, and guardrails can all be hazards to an out of control vehicle. It is desirable at all bridge undercrossings to provide a clear zone recovery area beside the roadway that is free from these hazards. This clear zone is given in the Road Design Manual, Section 4-6.0 and is a function of the roadway curvature, design speed, ADT, and ground slope. For the area under bridges a practical maximum clear zone of 30 feet may be used as permitted in the 2002 AASHTO Roadside Design Guide, Table 3.1 based on consistent use and satisfactory performance. Eliminate side piers from the roadside area wherever possible. The “desirable” bridge undercrossing will satisfy the above safety criteria.

For those locations where it is totally impractical to provide a full clear zone recovery area at an undercrossing (as at some railroad underpasses and in certain urban situations), lesser side clearances are permitted. Where the full recovery areas must be infringed upon, the greatest side clearances that circumstances will permit shall be used. A side clearance of 20 feet is not as desirable as 30 feet but is still better than the absolute minimum clearance. Minimum lateral clearances are specified under the section for Lateral Clearance for Mainline Highways.

Where drainage must be carried along the roadway passing under a bridge, either a culvert must be provided at the approach fill or the ditch section must be carried through at the toe of the bridge approach fill. The use of a culvert will often permit more desirable bridge geometrics, but the culvert openings can also introduce a roadside hazard. A determination regarding drainage (need for culverts, size of a culvert, and assessment of possible hazard) will be a controlling factor in deciding geometrics of the bridge for the site.

2) Economics Prestressed concrete beam spans (in length up to about 145 feet) are normally the most economical type of construction for grade separations. In addition, there will usually be greater economy in constructing grade separations using two long spans rather than