• InfrastructureTimber bridges viable option for low-traffic local roads

    Glulam timber bridges are viable and cost-effective options for replacing bridges on low-traffic county and township roads. Glulam, short for glued laminated, means the structural members are made of layers of wood strips bonded with glue. A timber bridge would provide alternatives to conventional precast double-tee bridges, giving counties and townships more options when designing a new bridge or replacing an old one.

  • InfrastructureTesting bridges for safety after major hurricanes

    After Hurricane Irma hit, there was a major concern about South Florida’s bridges, mainly the ones in the Florida Keys. Would the structures be safe to cross for drivers anxious to get back home? Would relief efforts be impaired due to damage caused by massive winds? Fortunately, all forty-two bridges that connect the mainland to the Keys were inspected and declared safe by Monroe County officials. If another major hurricane like Irma hits South Florida, researchers and engineers shares an easy and cost-effective way to test a bridge for safety.

  • InfrastructureBridges and roads as important to your health as what’s in your medicine cabinet

    By Korydon Smith

    Two seemingly unrelated national policy debates are afoot, and we can’t adequately address one unless we address the other. Health care reform has been the hottest topic. What to do about America’s aging infrastructure has been less animated but may be more pressing. What if a solution to bridging both the political and sectoral divides between health care and infrastructure was, literally, a bridge? Sure, bridges are core elements of infrastructure, but what do bridges have to do with health care? As it turns out, a lot. Moving the health care debate to a discussion on infrastructure might accomplish two vital needs. It might advance the health care debate by both walking away from the current gridlock and approaching the destination from a fresh perspective. It might also advance public health by making America’s highways, neighborhoods and water systems safer, mediating the risks of health care and bridge collapses.

  • InfrastructureA floating tunnel could withstand an explosion

    Concrete can tolerate much more force that previously believed, which could open the door to a new kind of road structure: a floating tunnel. The E39 is a nearly 1100-km long coastal road that crosses seven major fjords by use of ferries. Norwegian authorities are working to improve the road by eliminating ferry crossings, which in addition to being costly, mean that drivers have to wait for ferries if they don’t arrive at the crossing at exactly the right time. Norwegian engineers are examining an entirely new type of water crossing: submerged floating tunnels.

  • Infrastructure protectionProtecting the world’s longest floating bridge from strong wind

    The Bjørnafjord crossing in Norway will become the longest floating bridge in the world, that is, a bridge where the vertical load is supported by floating pontoons. In order to build the bridge, the engineers need to know exactly how the wind behaves on the bridge site. Scientists are working on a new method for wind measurements.

  • InfrastructureRisk of collapse: U.S. bridges more vulnerable than previously thought

    The United States is considering a $1 trillion budget proposal to update infrastructure, including its crumbling bridges. An obstacle to spending the money wisely is that the current means of assessing bridges may underestimate their vulnerability. Studying how and why bridges have collapsed in the past identifies the limitation of current risk assessment approach and demonstrates the value of new perspectives on climate change impact.

  • DamsLessons from the Oroville Dam incident

    U.S. dams and levees received a grade of “D” in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 report card on national infrastructure, meaning they are in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many components near the end of their service life. Experts examining the recent Oroville dam incident in California, say that the massive hole in the dam’s primary spillway and excessive erosion in the emergency spillway, along with a levee breach near Manteca, “clearly demonstrate how extreme events, land-cover and land-use changes, and the emerging climatic changes can threaten the integrity of our aging dams and levees.”

  • InfrastructureOur crumbling infrastructure

    By Christina Pazzanese

    The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the nation’s highways and bridges face an $808.2 billion backlog of investment spending, including $479.1 billion in critically needed repairs. More than two-thirds of the nation’s roads and nearly 143,000 bridges are classified in “dire need” of repair or upgrades. U.S. ports are clogged and need dredging to improve the flow of goods; railroad tracks need modernizing; airport communications technology needs updating and expansion; and urban mass transit is old and inadequate. As president, Trump wants to rebuild America’s core; here are the likely smooth roads and potholes ahead.

  • Infrastructure protectionMood ring materials offer a new way to detect damage in failing infrastructure

    The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that more than $3.6 trillion in investment is needed by 2020 to rehabilitate and modernize the nation’s failing infrastructure. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to establish a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program when he takes office. An important element in any modernization effort will be the development of new and improved methods for detecting damage in these structures before it becomes critical. This is where “mood ring materials’ comes in. “Mood ring materials” could play an important role in minimizing and mitigating damage to the U.S. failing infrastructure.

  • Infrastructure protectionImproving Pennsylvania bridges

    According to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2015 National Bridge Inventory, of the 22,783 bridges in Pennsylvania, 21 percent are classified as structurally deficient and another 19 percent are classified as functionally obsolete. Researchers conducted a study to identify the key factors that contribute to premature cracking in concrete bridge decks. The team also assessed the effects of the cracks on the long-term durability of the bridges.

  • Infrastructure protectionEnergy-efficient dyke-inspection robots

    There are many dykes in the Netherlands, and their structural health must be continuously monitored. Inspecting the condition of dykes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for robots, working in a team and in a highly autonomous way. But if they move around across the dykes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day, they use a lot of energy. Introducing charging stations is not a realistic scenario. A Dutch researcher had a better idea: an innovative automatic gearbox or the robots, which uses two metal hemispheres instead of a belt drive.

  • Infrastructure protectionSensors monitor bridges’ health – and tweet the information they gather

    While bridge collapses are rare, there have been enough of them to raise concerns in some parts of the world that their condition is not sufficiently monitored. Sweden is taking a hi-tech approach to its aging infrastructure. Researchers are rigging up the country’s bridges with multiple sensors that allow early detection of wear and tear. The bridges can even tweet throughout the course of a day.

  • InfrastructureEconomic impact of inland waterway disruptions potentially in the billions

    What would happen if a lengthy disruption befell the major mode of transportation of U.S. corn and soybeans? What ramifications would that have on U.S. producers and the national economy? How would that affect U.S. competitiveness in world grain markets? While hypothetical, these concerns are very real as the barge corridor in question contains a total of thirty-six locks and dams that have long since surpassed their designed lifespan. This corridor is the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) that serves as the primary corridor for the movement of bulk commodities in the United States. Corn and soybeans comprise nearly 90 percent of food and farm products on these waterways.

  • InfrastructureStructural, regulatory, and human errors contributed to Washington bridge collapse

    When an important bridge collapsed on Interstate 5 near Mount Vernon, Washington, in 2013, questions were raised about how such a catastrophic failure could occur. A new analysis outlines the many factors that led to the collapse, as well as steps that transportation departments can take to prevent such accidents on other bridges of similar design.

  • InfrastructureBuilding indestructible bridges

    A design process called “form-finding,” inspired by the natural world, could make possible a new generation of indestructible bridges. Form-finding enables the design of rigid structures that follow a strong natural form — structures which are sustained by a force of pure compression or tension, with no bending stresses, which are the main points of weakness in other structures.