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Bridges vs. Viaducts — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 28, 2024
Bridges span physical obstacles like rivers, connecting two points, while viaducts are long, elevated bridges, typically carrying roads or railways over valleys or other roadways.
Bridges vs. Viaducts — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Bridges and Viaducts


Key Differences

Bridges are structures built to span physical obstacles, such as rivers, valleys, or roads, for the purpose of providing passage over them. They vary in design, ranging from simple wooden structures to elaborate architectural pieces. Viaducts, a specific type of bridge, are typically long and elevated, often used to carry a road or railway over a series of obstacles like valleys, roads, or water.
The primary function of bridges is to connect two points across an obstacle, which could be a body of water, a road, or a valley. Their design focuses on efficiently spanning the shortest distance possible between these points. Viaducts, however, are designed for length and elevation, aiming to maintain a consistent level over uneven terrain, making them ideal for transportation routes.
In terms of construction, bridges often involve diverse materials and designs, such as suspension, arch, or beam bridges, depending on the span and the nature of the obstacle. Viaducts are characteristically a series of small spans supported by many towers or piers, creating a continuous elevated path, commonly seen in elevated railways or highways.
Architecturally, bridges can be significant landmarks, showcasing engineering prowess and aesthetic values. Viaducts, while also impressive engineering feats, are more utilitarian, often designed to blend into the landscape or provide the most practical route for transportation.
Lastly, in urban and historical contexts, bridges often have cultural and symbolic significance, representing connectivity and progress. Viaducts, being predominantly functional, symbolize industrial and transportation advances, particularly in the context of rail and highway infrastructure.

Comparison Chart

Primary Purpose

Spanning physical obstacles like rivers, roads
Carrying roads or railways over long distances

Design Focus

Efficient crossing, diverse designs
Length and elevation, series of small spans


Various materials and types
Many towers or piers for support

Architectural Role

Often landmarks, diverse aesthetic values
Utilitarian, blending into landscape

Cultural Significance

Symbolize connectivity and progress
Represent industrial and transportation advances

Compare with Definitions


Structures that span physical obstacles.
The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic structure in San Francisco.


Long, elevated bridges for transportation.
The Millau Viaduct in France is one of the tallest in the world.


Vary in design and materials.
The city has several bridges, including suspension and beam types.


Functional, often blending into landscapes.
The rural viaduct was designed to blend with the surrounding hills.


Connect two points across an obstacle.
A new bridge was built to improve connectivity between the two towns.


Symbolize transportation advances.
This viaduct represents a major advancement in our railway system.


Often have cultural significance.
Bridges in the city symbolize architectural progress and innovation.


Designed for length and elevation.
The viaduct spans the entire valley, maintaining a consistent level.


Can be significant landmarks.
The Brooklyn Bridge is not only functional but also a historical landmark.


Feature many supports or piers.
The long viaduct is supported by a series of concrete piers.


Plural of bridge


A series of spans or arches used to carry a road or railroad over a wide valley or over other roads or railroads.


Plural of viaduct

Common Curiosities

How are bridges different in design from viaducts?

Bridges have diverse designs; viaducts are a series of small spans on towers or piers.

What is a viaduct?

A long, elevated bridge, often used for roads or railways.

What is a bridge?

A structure built to span an obstacle like a river or road.

What materials are used in bridge construction?

Materials like steel, concrete, wood, depending on the type and purpose.

Can bridges be used for railways?

Yes, bridges can carry railways, roads, or pedestrian paths.

Can a bridge be an architectural landmark?

Absolutely, many bridges are famous for their architectural beauty.

Are viaducts used in urban areas?

Yes, especially for elevated roads or trains.

How long can bridges span?

It varies; some bridges span miles, like suspension bridges.

Do viaducts support heavy loads?

Yes, they're designed to support heavy transportation loads.

Can bridges be considered works of art?

Many bridges are indeed considered architectural and artistic marvels.

What's the primary purpose of a viaduct?

To carry traffic over long distances, especially over uneven terrain.

Do viaducts have cultural significance?

They're more functional, symbolizing transportation progress.

Are all viaducts elevated?

Yes, they're typically elevated structures.

Are viaducts more expensive than regular bridges?

Often yes, due to their length and the amount of material required.

What role do bridges play in connectivity?

They connect regions separated by physical obstacles.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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