Diaphragms are adopted in concrete box girder bridges to transfer loads from bridge decks to bearings. Since the depth of diaphragms normally exceeds the width by two times, they are usually designed as deep beams. However, diaphragms may not be necessary in case bridge bearings are placed directly under the webs because loads in bridge decks can be directly transferred to the bearings based on Jorg Schlaich & Hartmut Scheef (1982). This arrangement suffers from the drawback that changing of bearings during future maintenance operation is more difficult.
In fact, diaphragms also contribute to the provision of torsional restraint to the bridge deck.