Bridge Utilities Infrastructure News


3 Ways Improper Drainage Can Damage Bridges

Posted by Edward Dill on Mar 29, 2018 9:04:00 AM



Proper drainage is absolutely essential to the functionality of bridges. Both standing water and excess water can cause a litany of issues for bridgework, particularly the sensitive bridge-attached utilities supported by the structure itself. Here are three specific ways improper drainage damages bridges.

  1. Damage to the Bridge Decking

    The decking of a bridge – the flat top layer that accommodates people, cars, or other traffic – is one of the highest-impact components of the structure. While most of today’s technologically-advanced bridges are designed with decks that include waterproof membranes, most bridges over 10-20 years old struggle with keeping excess water at bay on their decks where it can cause traffic problems and, worse, maintenance issues.

    When decking doesn’t drain properly, standing water can accumulate on the bridge deck itself. This poses an obvious hazard for vehicular traffic, and it also adds thousands of pounds of weight to a bridge, stressing its structural components. Over time, decking that doesn’t drain properly can result in a warped surface, cracking, and even separation between the decking and underlying components.

  1. Damage to Bridge-Attached Utility Pipes

    America’s bridges support some of the most necessary (and vulnerable) utilities in the country. Pipelines carrying everything from clean water to natural gas to fiber optic internet cable span the length of bridges from coast to coast; water poses a serious threat to many of these pipelines.

    Over time, improperly installed/maintained bridge utilities are subject to corrosion where moisture is present. Excess water only exacerbates the issue. In addition, drainage downflows during heavy rains can create significant extra pressure which strains pipe attachment points. Poor drainage can even allow water to back up into insufficiently sealed pipelines, contaminating the utilities themselves.

  1. Overall Maintenance Backlogs

    Moisture begets maintenance. The moister an environment, the more factors such as rust, mold, and even slippage come into play. Bridges that aren’t just moist but actually have resting or flowing water will always require more maintenance than bridges that don’t.

    The more maintenance a bridge requires, the more likely maintenance backlogs are to occur. It’s easy to understand how never-ending maintenance of certain bridge components – the decking, the support structures – would take precedence over maintenance of auxiliary components such as aesthetic cables or attached-utilities. Well-maintained bridges perform better, last longer, and are generally safer than bridges suffering from constant maintenance backlogs.


Aptus is a leader in the maintenance of bridge-attached utilities including natural gas pipes, telecommunications pipelines, sewer/water pipelines, and more. Our experienced team provides consulting services along with a full array of on-site services such as installation, inspection, and repair. We’ve been in the bridge utilities business for a combined 250+ years, and we’re just getting started.

Would you like to learn more about how Aptus’ unique combination of skills and equipment helped us become the leading name in the bridge-attached utilities industry? Reach out today to find out how we can help improve the performance of your bridge project.

Topics: Bridge Monitoring, Drainage