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Structural systems of the Bollman truss bridge at Savage, Maryland

TitleStructural systems of the Bollman truss bridge at Savage, Maryland
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsAriston L, Lydigsen T, Arwade SR
JournalAssociation for Preservation Technology Bulletin
Start Page27
KeywordsBridges, Civil engineering landmarks, historic sites, Maryland, structural behavior, trusses

The Bollman truss bridge at Savage, Maryland, is the last surviving structure of its type in the United States. While much has been written about the career of its designer, Wendel Bollman, and the basic behavior and design concept of the trass system, there remain some outstanding questions regarding the truss design. The purpose of this paper is to address some of these questions by the use of indeterminate structural analysis. It is found that the system of Bollman members performs the primary load carrying function, while the diagonal bracing system serves to distribute non-uniform live loads among the Bollman members, and provide a degree of staictural redundancy to the truss. Field inspections indicate that the lower chord members are highly unusual in that they are capable of transmitting only compressive loads through their connections. In a strange type of behavior for a simply supported truss, these lower chord members are found to act in compression under a wide range of loading conditions, being most important to the performance of the bridge when non-uniform loads act. It is lastly proposed that this compression behavior of the lower chord members may provide an explanation for the observed retrofit of the lower chord members in only the end panels of the truss.