First GRP Road Bridge on European Continent

22 April 2005

Fiberline Composites have built the first GRP road bridge on the European continent.

The new fibreglass road bridge will be built in the German town ofKlipphausen near Dresden, Germany, and regarded by the company as being quite an innovation, being the first bridge to be built from GFRP to carry road traffic on the European continent.

Bridges made from composite materials are increasingly becoming a more favoured choice of materials to replace worn-out steel and concrete bridges, largely due to the ease in which composite materials can be assembled along with the commonly known advantages that composite materials can bring over the life cycle of bridge structures.

Fiberline claim that the GRP bridge near Dresden is one of the most technologically advanced road bridges in Europe, and has made the bridge the object of considerable international interest. The bridge is built entirely of GRP profiles, and has the same load-carrying capacity as similar bridges in steel or concrete.

Klipphausen has previous experience of GRP bridges, having constructed four new pedestrian and bicycle bridges from Fiberline in 2003 to replace bridges that were destroyed during the flooding in 2002.

Mayor Gerold Mann said that the municipality has chosen GRP structures instead of steel and wood to save money in the long term.

""Purchasing a traditional steel and wood bridge might be cheaper, but a traditional bridge is also expensive to maintain. Due to moisture and corrosion, we have had to renovate bridges that were built at the beginning of the 1990s. GRP bridges have long service lives, they do not corrode, and they require only minimal maintenance. We intend to exploit these advantages,” Mayor Gerold Mann added.

Throughout Europe, many road bridges are becoming worn out and in need of being replaced or updated, primarily due to corrosion caused by ice and road salt, but also because many of the older bridges were not designed to cater for heavy traffic.

Norbert Bieseke, an engineer at Fiberline Composites states that ""In many cases, a bridge must be installed quickly so there is as little disruption as possible to traffic. This gives GRP bridges another major advantage because they can be assembled in advance and then hoisted into place, due to their low weight,"" explains Mr. Bieseke.

The bridge at Klipphausen arrived in two separate sections. The two sections were mounted on a foundation already in place in the river, after which the two sections were glued together. Alternatively, it may have been equally feasible to build the bridge in a tent alongside the river or beside a railway line, and then hoist the finished bridge into place.

""At Klipphausen, the bridge was secured to the foundation by bolts, making it easy to remove the bridge in the event that it is threatened by high water in future, and ensuring that the municipality will not lose its investment yet again,” says Mr. Bieseke.

The bridge is the result of years of research and development in the ASSET (Advanced Structural SystEms for Tomorrow’s Infrastructure) project which has been partially financed by the EU with the project costing some 4 million Euros to date. One of the primary aims of the ASSET project is to find new and more durable construction materials for road bridges. Other members of the ASSET project have included SKANSKA and the British engineering company Mouchel.

The first product borne out of the project was Europe’s first GRP road bridge, which opened to traffic in Oxfordshire, UK in 2002.

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