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The global financial crisis has led to the creation of stimulus funding in North America, with the intention of keeping the construction industry afloat during difficult times. Although a large part of the funds is only available for ‘shovel-ready’ contracts, it has still enabled a vast number of previously-stalled projects to get off the ground at short notice, improving and maintaining bridges across the continent, and keeping workers in jobs.

But to a large extent, bridges at the other end of the scale have proved immune to the turbulence in the financial markets. Where projects are already under construction, contractors are appointed and on site and funding set aside for the project, they are rarely affected by even such dramatic events.

What may be regarded as a more accurate barometer of the current state of the industry is the speed at which new technologies are transferred from laboratory to site, but even in this regard the North American market seems to be staying remarkably healthy. It is heartening to see that the composite designs and recycled materials that engineers have long been championing are being embraced by clients, and that new versions and combinations continue to emerge from collaborative efforts between research labs, suppliers and manufacturers.

The intention of our special supplement is to give an overview of the bridge industry in North America, looking at some of the projects being built and planned at the moment, and giving a flavour of the emerging technologies that
are now in use. It is by no means exhaustive, but we hope it will give readers the inspiration to investigate this dynamic sector further.