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New Guide Advises Treatments and Technologies To Protect Historic Wooden Bridges

The Cedarburg Covered Bridge, WI was one of the bridges included in this study. Stan Lebow, Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service and university researchers collaborate to evaluate methods of protecting wooden bridges from fire and biodegradation.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Lebow, Stan 
Research Location : FPL
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 10


Wooden bridges, whether historic covered bridges or current highway timber bridges, are vulnerable to damage from biodegradation or fire. Only about 800 of more than 10,000 covered bridges built in the United States are still standing, and many of those are suffering from biodeterioration. The remaining covered bridges are also vulnerable to damage by intentional or accidental fires. Modern timber bridges, which represent an important component of the transportation resource, can also be vulnerable to fire and decay.

With funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration, Forest Service and university researchers collaborated to evaluate methods of protecting wooden bridges from fire and biodegradation. Researchers consolidated this research and the resulting recommendations into a guide that provides detailed information on factors that contribute to vulnerability and best practices for minimizing vulnerability, selecting and applying supplemental preservative treatments, use of fire retardants, and fire protection technology.

This document is the first of its kind to provide such detailed information and instructions. Historic preservationists and transportation maintenance personnel will use the guide in their efforts to extend the life of historic and modern wooden bridges.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Federal Highway Administration, National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation program
  • Professor Jeff Morrell, Oregon State University
  • Professors Terry Amburgey, H. Michael Barnes, and Michael Sanders, Mississippi State University

Program Areas