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American Steel Can Be Onsite for Bridge Projects Faster than Other Materials

Parul Dubey on November 19, 2021 - in Buildings, News, Structural components

Chicago – Recent media reports have bemoaned extended delivery schedules for raw steel. But is this accurate–and is it impacting steel bridge projects?

“Steel projects are still being delivered on schedule,” according to Charles J. Carter, SE, PE, PhD, executive director of the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA).

Carter added that during the past year lead times have become extended for all construction materials. “Typical lead times for steel plate are in the 8-10 week range, while lately we’re more likely to see 10-12 weeks. However, this shouldn’t have a substantial impact on bridge projects, which are usually planned months and even years in advance. In addition, the longer lead times reflect when steel is available directly from mills, but some steel, especially on smaller projects, is actually purchased from steel service centers, which are large warehouses throughout the nation that often stock more than 10,000 tons each and that together stock millions of tons of product and can deliver steel quickly.”

Mill sources report that lead times are rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels, with various mills now quoting lead times between 6 and 10 weeks depending on the specific product needed.

Recent cases amplify the speed at which the steel industry can respond. For example, when a truck accident and resulting fire damaged the Brent Spence Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky last year, many feared the bridge would be closed for months if not permanently. But service centers were able to deliver steel to the fabricator in just six days to help get the bridge back in service in just seven weeks. In another well-publicized example, steel was quickly obtained to enable a fast repair on the Hernando de Soto Bridge this year.

Similar extended schedules for concrete and rebar have been reported. Fortunately, thanks to Buy America provisions, steel plate and other structural steel for bridges is widely available from domestic steel mills, so it’s not subject to the current delays at ports. And to accommodate the expected increased demand from the recently passed infrastructure bill, the steel industry is rapidly adding capacity, such as the 1.2 million ton plate mill now under construction in Kentucky and additional upgrades from multiple steel producers. According to steel mill representatives, the industry has sufficient capacity to support both the current and expected future demand for steel.

The American Institute of Steel Construction, and its bridge subsidiary, NSBA, recommend talking directly with your regional fabricator. Proper pre-planning and project coordination will often mitigate any supply chain issues and fabricators can provide reliable timetables for how long a bridge project will take to complete.

Visit aisc.org/economics and aisc.org/nsba for more information about current economic conditions or talk with your AISC or NSBA steel specialists.

For more information contact:

Scott Melnick

Senior Vice President

American Institute of Steel Construction


[email protected]

About NSBA:

The National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA), a division of the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), is a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of steel bridge design and construction. NSBA functions as the voice of the bridge fabricators and steel mills while also partnering with the bridge design and construction community. NSBA’s partners include the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state departments of transportation (DOTs), design consultants, contractors, and academics. With these resources, NSBA is uniquely positioned to find solutions to the toughest bridge challenges, including those related to cost, sustainability, and performance.


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