Spread Footings Revisited: Geotechnical Advances Lead to Expanded Use for Bridge Abutments

by Derrick Dasenbrock, P.E., (M.ASCE), Geotechnical Engineer; Minnesota Department of Transportation, Maplewood, MN, dasenbrock@state.mn.us,

Serial Information: Geo-Strata —Geo Institute of ASCE, 2015, Vol. 19, Issue 1, Pg. 34-39

Document Type: Feature article


The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has historically used steel shell piles to support highway bridge structures, probably due to a blend of familiarity and efficiency among designers, contractors, and inspectors. In the not-too-distant past, use of spread footings for bridge structures was almost exclusively limited to sites with exposed or very near-surface bedrock. Anecdotally, engineers can recall projects where piles were driven as little as 1.8 m to bedrock to provide foundation support. Concrete piles, H-piles, drilled shafts, and shallow foundations collectively represent less than 20 percent of MnDOT's bridge foundations, although shallow foundation construction is now becoming more common.

Subject Headings: Shallow foundations | Pile foundations | Foundation construction | Bridge foundations | Steel bridges | Highway bridges | Concrete piles


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