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Tay Road Bridge
Firth of Tay, Dundee to Fife, Scotland, UK
associated engineer
W.A. Fairhurst & Partners
date  March 1963 - August 1966
era  Modern  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NO414294
ICE reference number  HEW 2602
When it opened in August 1966, the Tay Road bridge was the longest river crossing in the country at 2.25km in length. It has remained in continuous use ever since, though subject to closure in high winds. The bridge saves traffic an 80km round trip in travelling from Dundee to Newport in Fife.
A high-level road bridge crossing the River Tay was initially considered in 1929, but construction did not begin until March 1963. To reduce costs, the northern landing point chosen is Dundee's old tidal harbour and docks. The site was infilled and part subsequently used as a fabrication yard by the contractors. Demolition work included pulling down the Royal Arch, between Earl Grey Dock and King William IV Dock, built 1849-52 to commemorate an 1844 visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The Tay Road Bridge was designed by W.A. Fairhurst & Partners. The contract was awarded on 31st December 1959, and the design was largely undertaken by Dr William Albert Fairhurst (1903-82). The work included testing a quarter-size model to destruction.
The bridge has 42 spans, 31 of which measure 54.9m. Its deck has a rising gradient of 1 in 81, taking it from 9.75m above sea level on the northern river bank to 38.1m above sea level at Newport in Fife on the south bank.
Concrete foundations support paired reinforced concrete piers of developing parabolic shape, 5.5m high at the north west end and 30.5m high at the south east end. The piers are founded on bedrock where the water is shallow, and in deeper water on pile groups driven to the bedrock. The piers support twin lines of steel plate box girders, 3.65m wide and 3m deep, each weighing 203 tonnes. They are stiffened internally, providing a smooth exterior profile. Larger girders, ranging from 3m to 6.1m deep, carry the deck over the four navigation channels. Their spans are 76.3m.
The girders were constructed in the Dundee yard and rolled along a low-level service bridge before being lifted into position. They act compositely with the 300mm thick reinforced concrete deck, forming T-beams. These beams support precast concrete units between their inner edges, performing the dual role of providing a services duct and a central raised pedestrian footpath. Each two-lane carriageway is 6.7m wide, separated by the 3m wide footway.
At Dundee, traffic enters and leaves the bridge via four elevated curving concrete ramps, 500m in total length. There was also a toll plaza here, as the structure was originally a toll bridge. Charges were abolished on 11th February 2008.
The cost of the bridge and its approaches, excluding land and interest charges, was £4.8m. Overall, 142,240 tonnes of concrete and 12,950 tonnes of steel were used in its construction. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 18th August 1966.
The administrative authority is the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board, inaugurated on 3rd September 1962. It consists of six councillors from Dundee City Council, five from Fife Council and one from Angus Council, and is responsible for management and maintenance of the bridge.
In 2002, 3D computer analysis of the box girders showed that parts were overstressed, probably as a result of heavier vehicles using the bridge than had been originally anticipated. Extra steel plates have been welded or bolted to the inside corner of each box section over the supports, and fibre-reinforced polymers have been used to strengthen the piers — a solution that cost £4.1m, including temporary works and refurbishment. Work was completed in 2003.
Between April 2009 and March 2011, records show that the bridge carried some 380,000 vehicles per month in each direction.
In 2010, five bearings at the Fife end were replaced by four new ones, two beneath each box girder. To accommodate the new bearings, the abutment wall was extended, new bearing shelves constructed and stiffening plates inserted into the girders.
The westbound off-ramp at Dundee was replaced with a new layout, completed in October 2011, as part of the ongoing redevelopment of the city’s waterfront. The remaining ramps at this end will be removed and rebuilt to new alignments, starting in 2012, under an £8.2m contract let to Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd.
The piers have suffered ship collisions three times. In October 2011, work began to protect the piers with precast concrete shells weighing 250-300 tonnes, founded on piles. The designer is consultant Jacobs and the contractor is VolkerStevin Marine. The £15.1m contract is to be completed in spring 2013.
Contractor: Duncan Logan (Contractors) Ltd
Contractor (2002-3, 2010): Raynesway Construction
Steelwork: Dorman Long (Bridge & Engineering) Ltd
Box girders: Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd
Box girders: Sir William Arrol & Co Ltd
Research: ECPK
"Tay Road Bridge improvements" by D.T. Slater, in Bridge Management Five, pp.203-209, Thomas Telford Ltd, London, April 2005
reference sources   CEH SLB

Tay Road Bridge