National Synthesis of Railing Systems Successfully Used for the Rehabilitation of Historic Bridges and for New Bridges in Historic Areas

Focus Area

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources


Community & Cultural Concerns




Under $99k


Under 1 year

Research Idea Scope

The rehabilitation of historic bridges often must accommodate upgrading certain components to modern engineering and safety standards. Railing systems are among the most visually prominent of such components, either through the addition of modern safety railings and/or the need to reconstruct deteriorated historic railings or parapets. Sometimes there can be as much debate about new railing systems as between decisions to rehabilitate or remove the historic bridge. In addition, interest in railing/parapet systems also extends to new bridges in historic areas. Many state DOTs have successfully accommodated railing upgrades on historic bridges and have used a range of railing/parapet designs in historic areas. Unfortunately there is no synthesis of these efforts, only anecdotes and information directly shared among the DOTs.

Urgency and Payoff

Bridges are the most common historic asset owned or administered by state DOTs, and the rehabilitation of historic bridges and new bridge construction in historic areas can generate controversy and take considerable time to negotiate with state historic preservation offices and stakeholders. This synthesis will provide DOT cultural resource practitioners and structural engineers a valuable compendium of examples of how other DOTs have successfully upgraded railing systems on historic bridges and incorporated modern railing designs in historic areas. This information potentially will reduce controversy, the length of negotiation, and produce a more readily acceptable product for stakeholders.

Suggested By

Antony Opperman Virginia Department of Transportation 804-371-6749

[email protected]