December 7

4 Roles Civil Engineers Play in Bridge Building



Designing and maintaining a bridge is no easy task. To help keep the infrastructure safe in any location, we need civil engineers to play a vital role. Their creativity, training, and analytical skills are required to build and maintain any type of bridge

Civil engineers must be able to evaluate problems and consider the best options to keep the public safe. They must consider the traffic flow, costs, utility systems, and countless details. Any oversight could lead to inferior results which could impact the safety of millions. 

What Is a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers are professionals who perform services for public works and infrastructure projects. They require higher level education in the field and a broad skill set to do their job effectively. Such requirements include:

  • Analytical: Civil engineers find solutions for complex problems. They look at all options and determine the best one to solve the problem.
  • Creative: Civil engineers help design bridges and other infrastructure projects. They use their creativity to develop these structures. 
  • Mathematical Aptitude: Complex calculations must be used to determine the amount of force a bridge can bear.
  • Technical Skills:  The use of computer software in civil engineering is a must. 
  • Good Communicator: Civil engineers work with many people every day. They must be able to explain concepts that all involved can understand. 

Earning a civil engineering degree is the start of practicing in that field. For many public works projects, civil engineers must be certified to prepare, sign, and submit plans to public entities for approval. Certified civil engineers must comply with the requirements of the contracts they sign such as building codes and environmental regulations. They can be held legally responsible if their work fails. 

The Key to Building Bridges

Bridge-building requires solid design and maintenance of these grand structures. Civil engineers may be responsible for designing, building, and other highway-related structures. Typical tasks may include designing and maintaining bridge structures, minimizing environmental impact, and supervising the process. Other important job duties include:

  • Completing site investigations
  • Data collection
  • Identifying environmental risks
  • Analyzing manufacturing processes
  • Supervising construction

Duties may change for a civil engineer during the project, but they do play a critical role in bridge-building projects by bringing the following qualifications to the table. 

1. Effective Communicator

Being able to interact with all personality types is critical for success. Civil engineers must explain the scope of the bridge project to a range of audiences. The first step to designing a bridge is the initial meeting to discuss the style of the bridge, its railing, and special features that will be used to draw a preliminary sketch. Good communication is key to explaining the details, suggestions, and issues concerning the project.

Everyone involved in the bridge construction project should be able to follow and understand the plans at every step. Not being clear and concise can lead to delays in the schedule. Civil engineers are needed at the beginning to be able to convince clients, public officials, and city planners that their plans are cost-effective and safe.  

2. Structural Analyzer

Civil engineers are responsible for analyzing bridge designs to ensure they can safely bear loads and resist stress and force. Bridges are complex steel and concrete structures that must be able to withstand the elements and meet codes to ensure public safety. Civil engineers ensure that the bridge being built or maintained will perform as required. They also identify the forces that could hinder their performance. 

3. Technologically Proficient

Civil engineers use technology to create virtual models of the bridge. CAD and CAE software is often used to draft preliminary and final designs. This helps those involved to visualize it and encourages clients to buy into the project. Technology is also used for design calculations, such as results of displacement forces and dynamic analysis results. 

4. Project Manager

Civil engineers must have the proper skills to plan a bridge project. Project and time management are key to keeping the project on schedule. Leading a team of planners and technicians means making changes when appropriate. It could be in the design or material of the bridge. Civil engineers also help plan the logistics of the materials and supplies needed to complete the project. They play a huge role in making sure the project is cost-effective. Civil engineers are the center of bridge design and implementation. 

Experienced Civil Engineering, Designing, and Planning

At Pickett, Ray, &  Silver, we’ve been planning and providing civil engineering services for over 50 years. Our civil engineers have the skills and experience to help with different types of public services projects. Contact us today to get started on your next construction project. 


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