Five Benefits of Precast Concrete Box Culvert Short-Span Bridges

Jul 7, 2021 | Education

In the past few decades, the construction of short-span bridges with precast concrete box culverts has revolutionized the industry. Today, it makes no sense to construct a short-span bridge in the field when precast concrete box culvert components make it so much quicker and easier. Here are five benefits that make precast concrete box culverts the optimal solution for short-span bridges.


Precast concrete box culverts exponentially decrease the time that it takes to build a short-span bridge. Bridge closures can be a huge issue on state highways and rural roads, where a closure can mean long detours that impact school buses, emergency vehicles, essential workers and the traveling public. Poured-in-place bridge construction can take months from start to finish. We even noticed one project recently that lingered for a full year. With a precast concrete box culvert, a typical short-span bridge project can be completed in about two weeks.


When considering lifecycle costs – the total cost of the bridge over its lifespan – precast concrete short-span bridges will almost certainly provide a cost savings – whether it’s taxpayer dollars or private money. When considering the total cost, including on-site labor and installation time, pricing is comparable or even less when using precast. And a box culvert short-span bridge will last many decades into the future with little or no maintenance beyond occasional repaving.


Because all precast concrete box culvert components are constructed in a climate-controlled factory by our skilled Cemcast production team, the quality is unparalleled. When constructing a bridge in the field, there are many factors that can derail quality. It requires exceptionally skilled craftsmen to deal with the wet conditions, reroute the water and dewater the site. And that’s before they even begin building the forms. Then, the rebar must be properly placed and the formwork kept clean for the concrete pour. Add curing time to that and then factor in weather and there are many variables to control that are never an issue in our quality-controlled environment.


With a precast concrete box culvert installation, the jobsite is a much safer place. A small crew can install the culvert sections in a minimal amount of time, which eliminates many of the potential safety hazards that face a crew constructing a short-span bridge in the field.


Let’s say there was a massive rain event that washed out a culvert. We’ve seen pictures where a steel pipe or a plastic pipe would wash out and float down the road. If there is a flood event or a dramatic backflow event, 99.9 times out of 100 the precast structure will still be in place. Then, it simply becomes a matter of backfilling around it again, repaving the road and you’re back in business. You’re not going to be replacing the culvert and starting from scratch.

For these and other reasons, there’s simply no better method for short-span bridge building than with precast concrete box culvert components from Cemcast Pipe and Precast. Contact us about your project and we’ll be happy to tell you more about the Cemcast pledge to produce the highest quality products, expertly crafted and delivered to the jobsite on your schedule.

Carl V. Carlson

About the Author

Carl Carlson is president of Cemcast Pipe and Precast, a locally owned concrete manufacturing company based in Hartford, South Dakota, serving the Midwest region with quality products for underground and above-ground infrastructure.

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