Bridge guidelines, standards and specifications

Search bridge guidelines, standards and specifications

Bridges and bridge components for use on Forest Service roads (FSRs) must be designed and constructed according to standards and specifications as set out here by the provincial government, unless prior approval has been obtained from a Ministry Engineer.

Before constructing a bridge structure on a Forest Service Road, proponents should understand the standards, specifications and other requirements for design, fabrication, professional oversight, and bridge material requirements in British Columbia as captured here in the Ministry Bridge Guidelines, Standards and Specifications (BGSS) website.

For bridges on Forest Service Roads (FSRs), the (FOR or “the ministry”) is responsible for establishing design, fabrication and construction standards.

The Bridge Guidelines, Standards and Specifications website (BGSS) provides Ministry bridge standards and specifications for ministry staff, industry, bridge material fabricators, design consultants and contractors. Included are detailed standards on FSR bridge design and construction, and guidance in the form of various Ministry publications that contain the ministry’s detailed bridge standards. 

The majority of the BGSS describes and references mandatory design and construction standards that apply to permanent Ministry bridges. In some cases the BGSS, for simplicity and brevity, uses the term “bridge” in a general sense, to refer to both bridges and major culverts. For example, the title of the BGSS does not specifically refer to major culverts, even though major culverts are addressed, to some degree, in the BGSS.

The majority of this website describes and references mandatory design and construction standards that apply to permanent Ministry bridges.  The Ministry allows deviation from permanent bridge standards for temporary bridges (e.g., untreated wood bridges, Acrow bridges, railcar bridges), re-installation of used structures, modification of existing structures, or other unusual situations.  Design and construction in these situations requires prior approval by a Ministry Engineer.  This Ministry Engineer will be responsible to adapt the use of ministry standards as appropriate to suit the particular situation.  Major culverts are also addressed in this manual, since they share some, but not all, of the standards that apply to permanent bridges.

The BGSS is web-based and a work in progress with anticipated modifications ongoing.  Previous ministry guidance in the form of the Forest Service Bridges Design and Construction Manual (FSBDCM) can be considered superseded by this site.  Legacy references to the FSBDCM and Interim Bridge Design Guidelines occur in some documents, including some standard drawings.  The Ministry will address these legacy references over time.  Any reference to FSBDCM or Interim Bridge Design Guidelines should be considered reference to the BGSS for any current activities or projects.

The ministry welcomes suggestions and recommendations from design professionals, contractors, fabricators, and others to assist in refining and improving upon ministry standards.  

Objectives of the Bridge Guidelines, Standards and Specifications (BGSS) Website

The primary objective of this site is to provide comprehensive guidance for Ministry bridge design, materials requirements, fabrication and construction, by providing detailed Ministry bridge specifications, and standards documents and drawings.

Information on this website is intended for reference and application by professionals knowledgeable with resource road bridges and infrastructure for bridges and bridge components to be used on Forest Service Roads (FSRs). It includes:

  • Design and construction standards and specifications for Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations bridges and bridge components
  • Background information and guidance for Ministry bridge and component standards and specifications

Importance of Bridge Standards

The standards for bridge and bridge components are an integral part of the bridge design and construction process.  Standards:

  • provide minimum performance requirements in the form of mandatory design and construction practices
  • emphasize details that result in the lowest life-cycle cost (construction cost plus maintenance cost over the lifetime of the bridge)
  • achieve design efficiency and quality for components that exhibit limited variation

In addition to the statutory requirements of the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and the associated Forest Planning and Practices Regulation (FPPR) that apply to FSR bridges, technical and administrative practices shall be applied to individual bridge projects. By standardizing these practices, the ministry assures consistency and fair competition for supply, fabrication and installation of bridges.

Revision History from 2021

Summary of ministry bridge standards documents

The following list briefly introduces Ministry document types that provide guidance for bridge design and construction:

  • Standard drawings: Provide visual depictions of technical ministry engineering standards as well as highly detailed engineering specifications in the form of drawing notes
  • Standard bridge material requisition templates: Templates for ordering a variety of different bridge and bridge component types. These templates include detailed specifications, contractor qualification requirements, and standard contractual requirements
  • Material and fabrication standards: Provide detailed technical specifications pertinent to specific material or fabrication topics;
  • Forest Service Supplement to CHBDC: Provides Ministry bridge design standards in a format matching the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code. One section of the Supplement is currently completed and implemented: “Section 3, Loads” Other sections are planned for future development
  • Engineering Manual (Chapter 4: Design and Construction of Bridges and Major Culverts): Provides general information about Ministry bridge related policies and procedures
  • Miscellaneous documents: A variety of other ministry documents provide detailed information related to specific bridge issues

Hierarchy of bridge standards and specifications documents

If discrepancies between Ministry documents are discovered in the course of bridge design or construction contractual work being undertaken for the Ministry, a hierarchy shall apply, with the higher document governing over the lower document based on their relative positions in the following list:

  • Written, contract specific requirements which should include detailed bridge material requirements as specified in the ministry standard bridge material requisition templates
  • Site specific engineering drawings, and related drawing notes, included in the contract documents
  • Standards described in the BGSS
  • Standards described in ministry specific material and fabrication documents referenced in the BGSS
  • Standard bridge drawings described in BGSS and the Ministry’s Engineering Manual
  • Other miscellaneous Ministry bridge standards related documents

References to documents

Unless otherwise noted, all references in this manual and in other Ministry standards should be interpreted to refer to version of the reference that is the most recent version at the time a project is being undertaken. For example, an old Ministry standard drawing that may reference CSA S6-88 (an obsolete version of CHBDC) should be interpreted to be referencing the most recent version of CSA S6 (CHBDC).

Several important definitions pertinent to the information in this manual are:

Bridge  A temporary or permanent crossing structure carrying a road above a stream or other opening and includes a log stringer/gravel deck structure with:

  • A span length equal to or greater than 6 m; or
  • An abutment height of 4 m or greater

CHBDC  CSA S6, Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code

Major culvert  A culvert where at least one of the following applies:

  • A pipe diameter of 2,000 mm or greater;
  • A pipe arch with a span greater than 2,130 mm;
  • An open-bottom arch having a span greater than 2,130 mm;
  • A design discharge of 6 m3/sec or greater; or
  • A log stringer/gravel deck structure (log culvert) with a span less than 6 m, an abutment height less than 4 m, and a design discharge of 6 m3/s or greater

Note: Ministry guidance for culverts embedded in roadway fords is provided in Chapter 3 of the Engineering Manual.

Permanent bridge  A bridge that has its superstructure (girders or stringers) and substructure (abutments) comprised of permanent materials (even though it may have an untreated timber deck). Acrow bridges and rail car bridges are exceptions to the foregoing and will be considered temporary bridges regardless of the abutment type.

Permanent materials  Steel, concrete or treated wood.

Portable bridge superstructure  A bridge superstructure that is designed and fabricated, in accordance with this manual, for ease of movement and installation.

Temporary bridge  A temporary bridge has stringers, girders, or abutments that are comprised of temporary materials; or an Acrow or rail car bridge.

Temporary materials  Untreated logs or untreated timbers.


This website is an ongoing work in progress and replaces previous forms of Ministry bridge guidance, standards and specifications for design, fabrication and construction. You can: