Bridge Abutment |10 Bridge Abutment Types | Abutment Bridge

What Is Bridge Abutment & 10 Types of Bridge Abutments

Bridge Abutment Means

A bridge abutment is a structural element that supports the end of a bridge and transfers the weight of the bridge and its load to the underlying foundation.

It is typically made of concrete or masonry and is designed to resist lateral and vertical forces generated by the bridge deck and its load.

The abutment also helps to stabilize the bridge against movement caused by changes in temperature, settlement, and other factors.

Bridge abutments come in various shapes and sizes and can be designed to match the architectural style of the bridge and the surrounding environment. Some common types of abutments include wing walls, rubble masonry abutments, and reinforced concrete abutments.

The design of the bridge abutment is an important aspect of bridge engineering, as it plays a critical role in the stability and safety of the bridge.

The abutment must be able to resist the forces generated by the bridge and its load and must be anchored securely to the foundation to prevent movement and instability.

In conclusion, bridge abutment is a crucial component of bridge design and construction. Its role in supporting the end of the bridge and transferring weight to the foundation is critical for the stability and safety of the bridge.

The design of the abutment must be carefully considered to ensure that it is able to resist the forces generated by the bridge and its load, and is anchored securely to the foundation.

Read More: Parapet wall – 10 types of parapet wall and applications

What Is a Bridge Abutment?

Bridge Abutment
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An abutment is an important part of a bridge, which vertically supports the structure of the bridge utilizing for circulating the weight of the bridge. The span of a bridge is associated with embankments by means of abutments.

Abutments Bridge are established on the ground surface. They adjoin the ground and deck of the bridge. The load or weight of the bridge deck is supported by the abutments.

Abutments are vertically positioned within the water or obstacle on a broad and heavy foundation. The abutments withstand the pressure exerted by water flow and soil due to their heavy weight.

Read More: Bridge Components and Their Function

Types of Bridge Abutments

The different bridge abutment types are as follows,

  1. Gravity Abutment
  2. U-shaped Gravity Abutment
  3. Cantilever Wall Abutment
  4. Full Height Abutment
  5. Stub Abutment
  6. Semi-stub Abutment
  7. Counterfort Abutment
  8. Spill-Through Abutment
  9. MSE System
  10. Pile Bent Abutments

1. Gravity Abutment

Gravity Abutments
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Gravity abutment has the function to prevent the horizontal earth and water pressure with its dead weight. The foundation of such abutments is extremely wide and heavy.

As the word mentions, the structure of the abutments is entirely seated on the ground, the gravitational pull of the earth makes the abutment sustainable.

2. U-shaped Gravity Abutment

U-shaped Gravity Abutments
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This butment type has wings perpendicular to the face which performs as counter-forts. These are relatively stable types of abutments. The wing walls of an abutment are at a 90° degree angle (perpendicular) to the seat of the bridge.

A U-shaped abutment has a set of piles, which are at a distance similar to the width of the bridges. These kinds of abutments are constructed with reinforced cement concrete.

At the bottom, both the piles of the abutment are attached to each other utilizing the foundation. Both piles have a common foot.

3. Cantilever Wall Abutments

There are two objectives of a cantilever wall abutment, the first is to retain the soil behind the edges of the bridge, second is to support the bridge superstructure. One of the most popular types of abutment structures is a retaining wall. although.

Cantilever Wall Abutments
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A retaining wall is utilized to hold back an earth embankment or water and to retain a sudden elevation change. The abutment serves the following functions

Allocating the loads from the bridge ends to the ground resists any loads that are directly imposed on it and gives vehicular and pedestrian access to the bridge. In the case of the retaining wall type Abutment bearing capacity and sliding resistance of the foundation materials and overturning stability must be examined.

4. Full Height Abutments

It is a big height abutment that is constructed at the lower level roadway and should support the whole embankment. This abutment is expensive and is normally utilized in congested urban and metropolitan areas where structure depth is critical.

Full-height abutments are more complicated to build; however, they tend to decrease the length of the end spans.

5. Stub Abutment

Stub Abutment
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Usually supported on piles, they are short abutments established at the top of an embankment or slope of the embankment. They are relatively and not visible from above ground level.

Several wall abutments are referred to as stub abutments. These abutments are created as short as feasible and are established at the top of fill embankments. Stub abutments usually just retain soils that are slightly greater than the superstructure thickness.

Stub abutments can be extremely economical; however, they tend to enhance the length of the end spans. Additional wall abutments can be extensively taller and are often constructed to the full height of the crossing.

6. Semi-Stub Abutments

The height of the semi-stub abutment is between the heights of full height and stub abutment. Unlike stub abutments, others are built on the top or nearby the top of the embankment, also the full-height abutment is formed at the bottom of the embankment.

These abutments are built between the top and bottom of the embankments. As they are bigger than the stub abutments and shorter than the full-height abutment, therefore they are remembered as Semi-Stub abutments.

7. Counterfort Abutment

Bridge Abutment |10 Bridge Abutment Types | Abutment Bridge
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Counterfort Abutments are the same as the counterfort retaining wall. In the counterfort abutment, a thin wall called a counterfort attaches the breast wall to the footing.

These counterforts are created at spaces of regular intervals so that the breast wall is composed of a supported slab rather than a cantilever.

Read More: What is Shoring in Construction & Types of Shoring in used Construction

8. Spill-Through Abutment

Spill-Through Abutment
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The main purpose of the spill-through abutments is to decrease the amount of soil pressure on the abutment by establishing huge voids in the stem.

Piers and Spill-through abutments have equality within them instead the majority of the structure is below grade.

9. MSE(Mechanically Stabilized Earth) System

MSE(Mechanically Stabilized Earth) System
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MSE stands for Mechanically Stabilized Earth. MSE real abutments (no piles) are better cost-effective than different abutments (piles under the bridge seat).

Both are inexpensive compared to conventional concrete abutments and dramatically reasonable in place of concrete abutments on piles.

10. Pile Bent Abutment

Pile Bent Abutment
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The pile bent abutment is a variant of a spill-through abutment that restores the wall-like supports with a string of piles, or columns, to carry the support beam.

Uses Of Abutment

  • To transfer the loads from a superstructure to its foundation components.
  • To resist or transmit self-weight, lateral loads (such as the earth pressure), and wind loads.
  • To support one edge of an approach slab.
  • To protect a balance between the vertical and horizontal force elements of an arch bridge.

Components Of Bridge Abutment

Bridge Abutment Components
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An abutment has various structural components, abutments placed at either end of a bridge typically include the following five components, which are as under:-

  1. Bridge Seat
  2. Wing Wall
  3. Back Wall
  4. Pile Of The Abutment
  5. Footing Of The Abutment

1. Bridge Seat

The top of the abutment, which includes a broader span than the filament of the abutment, where the deck of the bridge is placed, is called Bridge Seat.

2. Wing Wall

This component of the abutment is just comprised of the abutments which adjoin the bridge with an embankment. These are short retaining walls that prohibit the embankment from erosion.

3. Back Wall

It is also simply contained in embankment walls. Back walls are vertically established at ends of the most bridges. The back walls support the expansion joints of the bridge span or deck.

4. Pile Of The Abutment

The Pile of the abutment is the filament that is attached to the foundation of the abutment using the bridge’s seat. The length of the pile relies on the height of the bridge and the depth of the obstruction (canal, river, and stream).

5. Footing Of The Abutment

The footing of the abutment is similarly called the foundation of the bridge. The footing attaches the pile to the ground. The footing is broader and extremely heavy. The purpose of footing is to avoid the abutment to sink into the ground surface.

Selection Of Abutment

The process of choosing the most appropriate type of abutments can be based on the following consideration,

  • Construction and maintenance expenses.
  • Cut or fill earthwork situation.
  • Traffic maintenance during the construction.
  • Construction period.
  • Protection of construction workers.
  • Availability and expenditure of backfill material.
  • Superstructure depth.
  • Size of an abutment.
  • Horizontal and vertical alignment differences.
  • Area of excavation.
  • Aesthetics and similarity to adjoining structures.
  • Previous experience with the classification of the abutment.
  • Ease of access for assessment and maintenance.
  • Expected life, loading condition, and acceptability of deformations.

Forces On Abutment

Earth pressures exerted on an abutment can be evaluated according to the way and the magnitude of the abutment movement. The forces on abutment are as follows:-

  1. At-rest Earth Pressure
  2. Active Earth Pressure
  3. Passive Earth Pressure

1. At-rest Earth Pressure

When the wall is stabilized rigidly and does not change positions, the pressure exerted by the soil on the wall is called the at-rest earth pressure.

2. Active Earth Pressure

When a wall runs away from the backfill, the earth pressure reduces (active pressure).

3. Passive Earth Pressure

When it runs toward the backfill, the earth’s pressure rises (passive pressure).

Bridge Abutment Design Consideration

Steep Design Of Bridge Abutment
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The following consideration is taken while designing the bridge abutment,

  • Differential settling is prohibited on the approach slab (landing) and the deck of the bridge which is liable to generate a trip hazard and the aesthetics of the road.
  • Prevent shear failures in the approach slab (landing) from inappropriate subsurface support due to poor soils, fill from the excavation for the abutment, or different factors.
  • Approach slab length shall be suitable to the width of the bridge deck and abutment height as specified by a licensed experienced structural engineer.
  • Combine the approach slab into the abutment by setting the approach slab into a suitably sized notch in the abutment. Attach with anchors as required.
  • Subsurface elements below the approach slab shall contain suitably compacted soil, aggregate, and flowable fill.
  • Enlarge subsurface configuration to the road subsurface as required to prevent the area newly excavated for the construction of the abutment.
  • Long-term smooth change from the approach slab to the bridge deck and avoidance of shear failure in the approach slab may be used. An alternate technique must be designed by a licensed engineer.

Types Of Abutment Bridges Support

Supports of abutments are classified according to their structure and functions. An explanation of each type of abutment support is as follows:-

  1. Piles Or Drilled Shafts
  2. Spread Footings

1. Piles Or Drilled Shafts

Most of the abutments are supported on piles to avoid abutment settlement. Bridge approach embankments are usually built of fill material that can experience settlement over many years.

This settlement may be the result of the category of embankment material or the actual foundation material under the embankment. By driving piles through the embankment and into the actual ground, abutments usually do not settle with the embankment.

A settling embankment may be withstood by the abutment piles through friction between the piles and fill material. The enhanced load to friction piles and the want for pre-boring should be evaluated.

Boring of Piles Or Drilled Shafts

It is mainly not essential to pre-bore non-displacement piles for any fill depths, and it is not essential to pre-bore displacement piles for fill depths smaller than 15 feet below the bottom of the footing.

But, for some difficult soils, this may not apply. Recognize the soils report to specify if pre-boring is required. If needed, the Special Provisions must be written with pre-boring guidelines.

The lateral resistance on a pile may be greatly dependent on the material into which the pile is driven than on the pile category.

Read More: What Is Culvert | Types of Culvert With Uses

2. Spread Footing

Abutments on the spread footings are normally utilized simply in cut sections where the actual soil can sustain reasonable pressures without unnecessary settlement. The bearing resistance is defined by the geotechnical section or the geotechnical adviser.

With improved techniques and decent control of embankment construction, spread footings can be utilized successfully on fill material.

Construction must be measured to allow the foundation material to consolidate before the spread footings are established. A benefit of spread footings is that the different types of settlement between approach fill and abutments are minimized.

Use of Spread Footing

The usage of spread footings is allotted greater consideration for simple-span bridges than for continuous-span bridges.

But, under particular conditions, continuous-span bridges can be constructed for lesser amounts of settlement. Drainage for abutments on spread footings can be extremely critical. For these explanations, pile footings are usually chosen.


In conclusion, the bridge abutment serves as a crucial structural element which support the ends of a bridge, and connecting it to the land or other supporting structures and it plays a vital role in distributing the weight of the bridge and any loads it carries, ensuring stability and safety, bridge abutments are typically constructed with durable materials like concrete or steel and is designed to withstand various forces, including the vertical weight of the bridge deck and the lateral forces caused by  traffic and environmental factors, by anchoring the bridge securely, abutment prevent excessive movement or settlement, ensuring the long-term integrity and functionality of the bridge, overall, bridge abutments are essential components of bridge infrastructure, providing stability and support to safe connectivity and transportation.


What is a bridge abutment?

A bridge abutment is a supporting structure that connects the ends of a bridge span to the ground or foundation. It helps transfer the loads from the bridge to the ground and provides stability to the overall bridge structure.

Why are bridge abutments necessary?

Bridge abutments are essential because they support the weight of the bridge deck and distribute the loads to the ground. They also resist lateral forces, accommodate movements caused by temperature changes, and ensure the overall safety and stability of the bridge.

How are bridge abutments constructed?

The construction of bridge abutments involves excavating the ground, creating foundation elements (such as piles or footings), building the abutment walls using concrete or masonry, and compacting the soil behind the abutment for stability. The construction process may vary depending on the type of abutment.

What factors influence the choice of bridge abutment type?

Several factors impact the selection of a specific bridge abutment type, including bridge design, site conditions (such as soil characteristics), seismic considerations, bridge span length, expected traffic loadings, and the availability of construction materials.

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