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NSBA Addresses Misconceptions About American Steel Bridge Industry

June 26, 2013 from National Steel Bridge Alliance

(Chicago, IL) – The National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) has issued a Letter to the Editor outlining their objection to statements published in a June 20 Wall Street Journal article titled “U.S. Icons Now Made of Chinese Steel.” The article concludes that the U.S. structural steel industry is idle and domestic bridge expertise is lacking, based on New York City’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge project, which features seldom-used orthotropic bridge deck design and is currently being repaired with steel made in China.

NSBA refutes that assumptions about the domestic steel bridge industry should not be based primarily on a single U.S. project. In fact, significant activity in the U.S. building and bridge markets shows that the American structural steel industry is robust and domestic steel fabricators do have the sophistication, diversity, experience and capacity to meet all U.S. project requirements.

The following is NSBA’s Letter to the Editor to WSJ, provided by Roger Ferch, NSBA executive director:

On June 20, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting article on "U.S. Icons Now Made of Chinese Steel." Unfortunately, the authors attempted to make conclusions based primarily on a single project, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which featured a seldom-used orthotropic bridge deck design. As with most designs, orthotropic decks have their advantages and their disadvantages. While they are very light-weight, they also typically are highly labor intensive. As a result, these specialty systems are often very expensive to build.

Over the past 20 years, less than one orthotropic deck bridge, similar to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, has been built in each of those years in the U.S. In reality, despite what the media may portray, the domestic bridge market is extremely robust, fabricating more than 700 steel bridges in 2012 alone.

The truth is that the domestic steel bridge industry has the capability to fabricate bridges to meet our nation’s immediate needs as well as ample capacity to fabricate America’s signature bridges. Across the country, there are countless examples of what American fabricators have done – and still do. The Eggner’s Ferry bridge in western Kentucky was struck and collapsed by a 8,200-ton cargo ship. Less than four months went by between the original span’s demise and the new one opening to traffic. Recent major bridge projects such as the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington D.C., the Ravenal Bridge in Charleston, S.C., and a new Mississippi River crossing in Louisiana are true success stories from domestic fabricators and their American workers.

Finally, while some may try to paint this as simply a dollars and cents issue, the truth is the American steel bridge industry cares about the health, safety, and welfare of its workers. By awarding projects like the Verrazano-Narrows bridge to foreign competitors, we ignore wage, environmental impact, and safety standards that we demand for our own citizens. To accept anything less means accepting financial savings at the potential cost of human life. Shouldn’t the Chinese be held to the same standards if they are going to compete here in the United States?

Thank you for listening to our view.

If you would like to speak with Roger Ferch regarding this issue, he can be reached at 312.670.5401 or [email protected]. To learn more about the American structural steel industry’s prevalence in the U.S., visit www.aisc.org/madeinamerica.


For more information contact:

Tasha Weiss
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]




American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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