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New bridge abutments with a vegetated finish

Case Studies | February 1, 2011 | By:

This project, submitted by ML Ingeniería, won an Outstanding Achievement Award in the 2010 International Achievement Awards(IAA) / Geosynthetics presented by the Industrial Fabrics Association International. Each project in it’s own special way, exhibits outstanding innovation, technical skill and design excellence.

Submissions of geosynthetics projects for the 2011 International Achievement Awards are being accepted now. Submit your projects by July 15, 2011.


This project simply demonstrates how soil can be reinforced through the application of geosynthetic materials.

In this specific case the project is about the construction of two vehicular bridge abutments. Remarkably, this project shows the versatility of geosynthetics—from the efficiency of the reinforcement system of the geogrids to the use of geocells on all the slopes as an erosion control.

This project combines engineering technique with environmental sustainability, resulting in a safe, high-quality structure.


The bridge, in this case, was needed to connect a new residential area called Nuevo Veracruz with the Xalapa–Veracruz Highway.

The location is 7km from Veracruz City, an important site in Mexico because of its commercial seaport. The client needed a bridge, not only to connect the new residential area, but to cross over the railroad tracks of the Veracruz cargo train that travels from this port to all parts of the country.

The project plans required that these business operations remain unaffected during construction. For this project, two bridge abutments were designed, one about 151m (165yd) long and the other 158m (173yd), each 6m (20ft) high.

The clients also required that these vehicular bridge abutments were not only safe, but also capable of using elements that could be harmoniously integrated in landscape architecture. The goal was to achieve a friendly integration with the surrounding environment and encourage future builders to be aware of the importance of construction with sustainable designs.

Three additional logistical hurdles included:

  1. the low carrying capacity of the soil where the bridge would be built,
  2. the bridge plans called for a tight schedule, and
  3. the foundation soil was used waste product deposits from a local aluminum company.


First, the design engineering had to account for the low capacity of the soil and the short timeline for completion.

One benefit from the use of geosynthetics included time-saving construction without affecting safety or quality. And the use of these particular products do not required specialized skilled labor.

The site required less preparation, and the installation of the reinforcement proceeded without interrupting the trains near the work site. Geosynthetic materials also brought a flexible structural element, allowing the absorption of soil deformations.

One of the most important aspects in this planning is that this method reduced the cost vs. a traditional mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall and reinforced-slope.

According to the project plans, protection against erosion was required. Polyethylene geocells were placed on embankment surfaces for further vegetation using regional plants.

The geocells were covered with vegetation, which integrated harmoniously into the landscape of the locale and contributed to the environment, plus providing protection against slope erosion.


Excellent results were achieved with the use of geosynthetic materials in this civil engineering project.

They provided high-quality, cost-effective solutions, while offering easy installation and lower costs. Also a plus were the ecological elements—not always common in this kind of construction—and the time saved throughout the project. The completed bridge was working even before the new residential area was ready!

The client was happy because of the bridge results, and we are now designing another bridge for the same client in the same area for 2011.

This project was special in that it is not typical to address construction issues with geosynthetics. Most abutments are constructed the traditional way using steel and concrete.

In this project, an achievement in favor of ecology was reached, demonstrating an option to the traditional methods for a system that integrates natural elements, such as vegetation, without sacrificing the quality or functionality of the project or compromising its economical feasibility.

ML Ingeniería is very proud of this project, particularly to demonstrate that geosynthetic materials can offer a great alternative for this kind of bridge, as well as in other construction projects.

Sources: ML Ingeniería, Ace Geosynthetics, and the 2010 International Achievement Awards entry information; Ron Bygness, editor of Geosynthetics, also contributed to this article.

For more information about IAAs: contact Christine Malmgren, +1 651 225 6926,,

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