Several bridges in the world with long spans have utilized orthotropic steel deck systems in their superstructures. Even though these types of decks have been used extensively in Europe, Asia and South America; the concept has not yet fully been accepted in the United States. With the growing trend towards quicker construction with an overall longer bridge life, the steel orthotropic deck may be an economic solution. If the decks are designed integral with the girders as a common flange, cost savings on designing these components can be realized. This method can lead to a completely steel superstructure which has the potential to provide a long service life. The other leading benefits of this bridge decking system are the minimization of dead load in the design and the rapid construction that will lessen the impact on traffic.
There have been past problems with steel orthotropic decks especially in the area of fatigue cracking in the weld connections. Welding details are being developed to try and minimize this type of cracking.
Steel orthotropic decks can either be added as a decking system to the steel superstructure frame on site or can be prefabricated with steel girders and installed on site as part of a modular bridge system.
The multiple elements that make up steel orthotropic deck systems are fabricated off-site to make bridge deck modules that will be assembled and field welded at the bridge site. The sections are generally light enough to place safely with a single crane.