2013 New York City Bridge Conference

On August 26th and 27th, the world’s top bridge engineers and architects congregated to New York City for the 2013 New York City Bridge Conference. This conference was first hosted by the Bridge Engineering Association in 2003, but has quickly emerged as one of the leading bridge conferences in the world.

This year, the conference played host to a number of esteemed guests and industry leaders. The lead designer for Istanbul’s new Bosphorus Bridge presented the design and discussed the current specifications for long span suspension bridges. In addition, Thomas Lavigne, a partner in Lavigne Cheron Architects, presented his design for the new Jacques Chaban-Delmas lift bridge in Bordeaux, France. The projects are illustrated below.

The Third Bosphorus Bridge (left) and the Jacques Chaban-Delmas lift bridge (right). Photo Credit: Today’s Zaman and the American Society for Civil Engineering.

The conference also included many other speakers from around the world. The topics discussed include: Cable Supported Bridges; Bridge Rehabilitation; Seismic Analysis and Design; Bridge Monitoring; and Bridge History and Aesthetics.

Innovation in Bridge Rehabilitation

Corrosion of reinforcing, concrete degradation and concrete spalling are the three main concerns when dealing with concrete bridges. Traditional technologies employ a host of testing machines, causing the process to be quite inefficient; typically only 1000 sq. ft. of bridge deck can be inspected within one hour. Not only does this inefficiency increase the total cost of the project, but it creates traffic congestion and puts the worker’s lives at risk.

Researchers from Rutgers University have now developed a fully autonomous robotic non-destructive-evaluation platform. This product is an ‘all-in-one’ bridge inspection tool, and has the potential to drastically change the face of the industry.

The new product comes equipped with four resistivity probes, two surface imaging cameras, a laser scanner,and a GPS tracking system. This allows the robot to conduct all necessary testing, including: impact echo; ground penetrating radar; ultrasonic surface waves; and electrical resistivity testing. Furthermore, it is designed to move laterally and to turn at zero radius along a pre-set inspection path.

This product is able to inspect 4000 sq. ft. of bridge deck per hour (four times faster than traditional techniques). It also requires fewer workers on site, providing a higher level of project safety and efficiency. In addition, real-time data analysis is undertaken in a nearby van, allowing engineers to quickly address any concerns that arise.

Rapid Replacement of US 6 Keg Creek bridge

In an effort to reduce traffic congestion and fatalities during bridge construction, the US Congress approved the formation of the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) in 2005 (Transportation Research Board). The SHRP has since developed an aptly named Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) process, which makes use of pre-fabricated modular construction.

The US 6 Keg Creek Bridge replacement in Iowa took place in 2011 and was a pilot project for the new system. This project would typically take six months to complete. However using ABC, the replacement took only two weeks. The fourteen day bridge assembly was made possible by the use of an on-site fabrication plant. However, this could not be done in densely populated areas. A time lapse of the bridge replacement is presented below.

The old bridge was demolished in just one day, using what Bala Sivakumar of HNTB Architects refers to as a “chop and drop” system. The cost of the replacement totalled $231 per sq. ft..

To connect the ‘lego’ pieces, joints were filled with ultra high performance concrete (UHPC). This created full moment connections, emulating a typical cast-in-place construction. The use of UHPC also allowed the six inches of overlapping reinforcing steel at joints to fully develop. However some problems did arise when applying the UHPC to the old concrete. This was resolved by installing post-tensioned rods which created compression within the joints.

Further Advancement

The new concepts and ideas discussed at the conference show how advanced the industry has become. However, there are still many aspects of bridge engineering that require improvement and optimization. As the industry grows, new research will continue to bring forth ideas that revolutionize construction practices. It is therefore imperative that conferences continue to occur, providing a platform for researchers to both share and inspire.

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