A stressed ribbon bridge (also stress-ribbon bridge or catenary bridge) is a tension structure (similar in many ways to a simple suspension bridge). The suspension cables are embedded in the deck which follows a catenary arc between supports. Unlike the simple span the ribbon is stressed in traction, which adds to the stiffness of the structure (simple suspension spans tend to sway and bounce). The supports in turn support upward thrusting arcs that allow the grade to be changed between spans (where multiple spans are used). Such bridges are typically made from concrete reinforced by steel tensioning cables. Where such bridges carry vehicle traffic a certain degree of stiffness is required to prevent excessive flexure of the structure, obtained by stressing the concrete in compression.
The Maldonado bridge, located in Maldonado, Uruguay, illustrated below, was created by the engineer Leonel Viera (1913-1975) to expand the area of Punta del Este. This pioneered the construction sequence now typical for concrete segment bridges of this type. After placement of the principal cables, precast concrete tiles were placed to form the initial structure. The cables were then prestressed by loading sandbags upon the tiles, followed by final concretization of the gaps between tiles. Removal of the sandbags then compressively stressed the concrete structure, enhancing its stiffness and durability under load. An identical bridge was later constructed parallel to the first.