The cost of bridge labor can vary depending on factors such as location, union agreements, and project size, with some estimates ranging from $25 to $75 per hour for laborers and $50 to $200 per hour for skilled tradespeople such as welders and electricians.
According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the average hourly wage rate for construction workers in the United States is around $21.22 per hour or $44,130 annually.
Based on industry estimates and past construction projects, the labor costs for building a typical bridge can range from $5 to $20 million or more.
However, the cost of labor for building a bridge can vary widely depending on the location, size, and complexity of the project, as well as the type of labor involved. Other factors that can impact labor costs include union rates, prevailing wage laws, and the availability of skilled workers.
Possible labor costs for building a typical bridge
Here is a list of elements that may be included in the overall labor cost for building a bridge, along with their costs. Please note that the cost of each item can vary widely depending on factors such as location, project size, and labor market conditions:
- Skilled Labor (e.g. Carpenters, Electricians, Iron Workers) – $25-$70 per hour
- Unskilled Labor (e.g. General Laborers, Helpers) – $15-$30 per hour
- Project Management and Supervision – $60-$150 per hour
- Benefits and Payroll Taxes – 25-40% of total labor costs
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance – 1-5% of total labor costs
- Health and Safety Training and Equipment – $1,000-$5,000 per worker
- Tools and Equipment – $500-$10,000 per worker
- Overtime and Premium Pay – 1.5-2.0 times the regular hourly rate
- Union Dues and Fees – varies by union and location
- Miscellaneous Costs (e.g. Permits, Licenses, Legal Fees) – varies by project
For a smaller bridge, and assuming a smaller one has a length of 50 feet and a width of 20 feet, with a simpler design and foundation type, the labor costs could range from $200,000 to $500,000, depending on the location and labor market conditions.
Factors affecting the labor cost for building a bridge
Factors that determine the typical labor costs for building a bridge include:
Bridge size and complexity
Larger and more complex bridges require more materials, labor, and time to construct, which will increase the overall labor cost.
For example, the construction of a simple timber bridge in New York cost $500,000, while the construction of a complex cable-stayed bridge in California cost $1.5 billion.
Location and accessibility of the construction site
If the site is located in a remote area, the cost of transporting equipment and materials will increase, and this can also impact the availability of labor, which can affect the labor cost.
For example, constructing a bridge in a remote area in Alaska costs $10 million more than a similar bridge built in a more accessible location.
Availability of labor in the area
If there is a labor shortage in the area, the labor cost will increase as contractors compete to hire workers. Conversely, the cost may be lower if there is an abundance of labor.
To give you an example, the construction of a bridge in North Dakota cost $20 million more than a similar bridge built in an area with a more robust labor market.
Local prevailing wage rates
Prevailing wage rates can vary significantly from one location to another, impacting the overall cost of labor.
For example, the construction of a bridge in California cost $10 million more than a similar bridge built in Texas due to higher prevailing wages in California.
Construction timeline and schedule
Tight timelines or delays can increase labor costs due to overtime or idle time. For example, the construction of a bridge in Florida was delayed, leading to additional labor costs of $5 million due to overtime and extended deadlines.
Seasonal weather conditions
Weather can significantly impact the cost of labor, as workers may need to take additional safety precautions or work shorter days due to extreme heat, cold, or rain.
Example: the construction of a bridge in Minnesota was delayed by six months due to extreme winter weather, resulting in additional labor costs of $15 million.
Material availability and costs
The availability and cost of construction materials will impact the overall labor cost, as some materials may be more difficult to source or require specialized labor to install.
The construction of a bridge in New York cost $20 million more than a similar bridge built in Pennsylvania due to higher steel costs in New York.
Construction method and technology used
Different construction methods and technologies can impact the overall labor cost. Prefabrication techniques can reduce the need for on-site labor, while more advanced technologies may require specialized labor that is more expensive.
For example, using precast concrete components can reduce labor costs by up to 50% compared to traditional cast-in-place construction methods.
Safety requirements and regulations
Compliance with safety regulations and requirements can increase the cost of labor, as workers may need to take additional safety precautions or use specialized safety equipment.
The construction of a bridge in Virginia costs $5 million more than a similar bridge built in a state with less stringent safety regulations.
Project management and supervision costs
The cost of project management and supervision will impact the overall labor cost, as more complex projects may require more extensive oversight and management.
For example, the construction of a bridge in Maryland was completed on time and under budget due to effective project management and supervision, resulting in cost savings of $10 million.
Examples of labor costs for a typical bridge
Example #1: Complex Medium-sized bridge
- Bridge size and complexity: Medium-sized bridge with complex design – $2,000,000
- Location and accessibility of the construction site: Remote location with limited access – $500,000
- Availability of labor in the area: Limited availability, requiring imported labor – $1,500,000
- Local prevailing wage rates: Above-average wages due to labor shortage – $1,200,000
- Construction timeline and schedule: Tight schedule requiring overtime pay – $800,000
- Seasonal weather conditions: Mild weather conditions with few weather delays – $0
- Material availability and costs: Standard materials with no supply chain issues – $1,000,000
- Construction method and technology used: Conventional construction methods with some advanced technology – $500,000
- Safety requirements and regulations: Strict safety regulations requiring additional safety measures and equipment – $1,000,000
- Project management and supervision costs: Experienced project management and supervision team – $1,000,000
Total labor cost: $9,500,000
Keep in mind that these are just estimates and examples. The actual cost may be different depending on a lot of factors.
Example #2: Simple Large-sized bridge
- Bridge size and complexity: Large-sized bridge with simple design – $4,000,000
- Location and accessibility of the construction site: Urban location with good access – $200,000
- Availability of labor in the area: Abundant labor available locally – $800,000
- Local prevailing wage rates: Average wages for the area – $800,000
- Construction timeline and schedule: Flexible schedule with no overtime pay needed – $0
- Seasonal weather conditions: Harsh weather conditions with significant weather delays – $1,500,000
- Material availability and costs: High-quality materials with supply chain issues – $2,000,000
- Construction method and technology used: Advanced construction methods and technology – $1,500,000
- Safety requirements and regulations: Standard safety regulations – $500,000
- Project management and supervision costs: Standard project management and supervision team – $500,000
Total labor cost: $11,800,000
Again, these are just rough estimates and examples. The numbers were only taken to help present the average cost, and the actual numbers may differ greatly.
Example #2: Small and simple bridge
- Bridge size and complexity: small and simple bridge
- Location and accessibility of the construction site: rural area with limited access roads
- Availability of labor in the area: moderate availability of labor, but no specialized bridge construction workers nearby
- Local prevailing wage rates: $25/hour for general construction labor
- Construction timeline and schedule: 6 months
- Seasonal weather conditions: moderate weather conditions, no major weather-related delays expected
- Material availability and costs: moderate availability of materials, with some specialty materials needed for the bridge deck
- Construction method and technology used: conventional construction methods and equipment
- Safety requirements and regulations: standard safety requirements and regulations apply
- Project management and supervision costs: $200,000
Based on these factors, the labor cost for building a small bridge could be estimated as:
- Skilled labor cost: $120,000 (300 working days x 8 hours/day x $50/hour for skilled labor)
- Unskilled labor cost: $40,800 (300 working days x 8 hours/day x $17/hour for unskilled labor)
- Project management and supervision cost: $200,000
Total labor cost: $360,000
Related articles for you on “manufacturing & production”:
How much does a 20-foot bridge cost to build?
The cost to build a 20-foot bridge can vary greatly depending on factors such as materials, location, and complexity, but a basic estimate would be around $20,000 to $30,000.
How long does it take to construct a bridge?
The time it takes to construct a bridge depends on the size, location, and complexity of the project. Small bridges can be constructed in a matter of weeks, while larger and more complex bridges can take several years to complete.
What is the least expensive bridge to construct?
The least expensive bridge to construct is typically a simple beam or arch bridge made of wood or concrete, with costs ranging from $100 to $200 per square foot.
Which bridge type is the most durable?
The most durable bridge type is typically a suspension bridge, which can withstand high winds and earthquakes, but also requires significant maintenance and repair.
What is the most cost-effective bridge design?
The most cost-effective bridge design depends on a variety of factors, including materials, location, and construction methods. However, precast concrete bridges are often considered a cost-effective option due to their efficiency and durability.