Bridges are built to span physical obstacles (such as bodies of water, valleys, roads, and railroads) without blocking the way underneath. They are classified by how the actions of tension, compression, bending, torsion, and shear are distributed throughout their structure and most will employ all of these to some degree. Common types include:

Beam bridge
  • Beam – the simplest structural bridge form, supported by an abutment or pier at each end
Truss bridge
  • Truss – a load-bearing structure composed of connected elements forming triangular units
Cantilever bridge
  • Cantilever – two horizontal beams, supported on only one end, which meet at the center
Arch bridge
  • Arch – the bridge’s weight is thrust by the arch into load-bearing abutments at either side
Tied arch bridge
  • Tied arch – instead of transferring weight into the abutments like a traditional arch bridge, the ends of the arches are restrained by tension in the bottom chord of the structure
Suspension bridge
  • Suspension – a bridge suspended from cables that hang from towers that are attached to caissons or cofferdams
Cable-stayed bridge
  • Cable-stayed – a bridge held up by cables like a suspension bridge, but with higher towers and less cable


  • Movable – this type allows for passage of boats or barges and comes in many types, such as: drawbridges, swing bridges, floating (pontoon) bridges, tilt bridges, retractable bridges, lift bridges, etc.
  • Covered – a wooden bridge enclosed to protect the structure from the weather
  • Living root – a living bridge handmade from the aerial roots of rubber fig trees
  • Double-decker – a shared bridge with levels dedicated to cars and either trains or pedestrians
  • Multi-way – a rare type of bridge with three or more separate spans which meet near the center of the bridge and appear as either a “T” or a “Y” when viewed from above
  • Viaducts – made up of multiple bridges connected into one longer structure

Some of the world’s most famous, recognizable, or unique bridges include:

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