• Studying the Japan quake's impact on soil will improve building design

    The 11 March quake that hit Japan weakened subsurface materials by as much as 70 percent; that nonlinear response from the top layer of the Earth’s crust affected how the movement of faults deep beneath the surface was delivered to buildings, bridges, and other structures; understanding how the soil responds to powerful earthquakes could be important to engineers and architects designing future buildings to withstand the level of acceleration measured in this quake

  • Quake-resistant superelastic alloy developed

    Japanese scientists added a small amount of nickel to an iron-based alloy, and found that the new material can recover its original shape at any temperature from -196 to 240 degrees Celsius; the material may be used in environments that are constantly exposed to extreme temperatures, such as joints and controls in cars, planes, and spacecraft; it may also help buildings cushion stress and violent movement in earthquakes

  • "Sensing skin" to monitor concrete infrastructure health inexpensively

    In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assigned the grade D to the overall quality of infrastructure in the United States and said that ongoing evaluation and maintenance of structures was one of five key areas necessary for improving that grade; civil engineers recently proposed a new method for the electronic, continual monitoring of structures

  • RAILENIUM awarded 550 million Euro boost from French government

    RAILENIUM, the European Institute for Technological Research in Rail Infrastructure, has been selected by the French government as a leading investment project and has been awarded 550 million Euros in funding; the equipment and research platforms that RAILENIUM will provide will be unique in Europe; this will include a 5 km rail test loop, a tramway test track, a fatigue-simulation track, running trial facilities, and service structures

  • New building material could help solve bridge woes

    With infrastructure in the United States rapidly aging and in need of repair, new building materials made in Maine that make bridges cheaper, lighter, and more durable could help cash starved states undertake critical infrastructure investment; using lightweight hybrid composite beams, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) has just completed the largest composite bridge in the world; the new bridge is projected to last at least 100 years; the material’s weight, cost, and durability have generated a lot of interest across the country

  • China reduces top speed on high-speed rail

    On Monday Chinese officials lowered the top operating speed for its flagship bullet train citing safety concerns; China’s Railway Ministry will now run trains at 155 to 186 miles per hour on the Beijing to Shanghai line instead of 236 miles per hour as was originally planned; the recent announcement comes as part of broader set of changes to the Railway Ministry after Liu Zhijun, the previous minister, was fired for corruption and mismanagement in February

  • Larry Summers calls for $100 billion in infrastructure spending

    A former chief White House economic advisor is urging lawmakers to approve $100 billion in additional infrastructure spending to help boost the economy and prevent stagnation; Larry Summers, the former director of the White House National Economic Council for President Obama, wrote that it would be “premature” to limit fiscal support for the economy at the end of 2011

  • Truckers push for more highway spending

    Last month truckers pushed Congress to increase investments to America’s highway system noting that cargo shipped by trucks was expected to increase sharply over the next decade; the American Trucking Association (ATA) recently predicted that by 2022, there will be an overall increase of 24 percent in freight transportation; of that 24 percent, the trucking industry will see its cargo load increase by 70 percent.

  • New concrete could increase life of bridges by forty years

    Researchers have developed a new type of concrete that could increase the lifespan of bridges by more than forty years compared to normal strength concrete; the more durable type of concrete minimizes shrinkage, a problem typically found in high-strength concrete; the new concrete is also less likely to crack, which reduces the ability for corrosive materials like chlorides from de-icing salts to seep into the bridge’s internal structure; the new concrete uses a lightweight porous type of sand

  • Making high-speed rail tracks safer

    High-speed rail requires prestressed concrete railroad ties, as wooden cross ties are too flexible; for these ties to be effective, prestressing forces must be applied at a considerable distance before the rail load is applied; this is called the transfer length; to resist the heavy impacts the concrete ties utilize about twenty steel wires, each stressed to around 7,000 pounds; if the prestressed force is not properly transferred, failures can occur in the track

  • Senators outline long-term transportation spending plan

    On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators announced that they had come to an agreement on a long-term transportation spending bill; since 2008, highway and transit construction programs have had an uncertain fate, but the proposed bill would allocate roughly $56 billion a year to highway and transit construction; it is unclear what the final bill will look like as the Senate, House, and executive branch each have diverging views on highway funding; funding the transportation bill will be no small feat; a two year Senate bill would require $12 billion in additional fuel tax revenues and a six year bill would require an addition $70 billion

  • Using river sediment to repair the coast

    The water of the Mississippi River swells beyond levees and flood-control barriers, flooding large areas, destroying costly infrastructure assets, and inflicting economic harms; not all is bad, though: large floods like the current one carry huge quantities of sediment that eventually deposit on the riverbed, making the river shallower, or are carried out to the Gulf of Mexico; the vast amount of water going south will replenish Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, and the sediment carried by the water will restore long stretches of eroding coastline and rebuild barrier islands in the Gulf

  • Barge traffic resumes on Mississippi River

    On a typical day, some 600 barges move back and forth along the Mississippi, with a single vessel carrying as much cargo as 70 tractor-trailers or 17 rail cars; the barges haul coal, timber, iron, steel, and more than half of America’s grain exports; interruptions of barge traffic could thus cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars for each day the barges are idled; early Tuesday the Coast Guard halted barge and cargo haulers traffic along a 15-mile stretch of the river near Natchez, Mississippi; the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers were worried that the heavy wake churned by barges and cargo haulers increase the pressure on levees which are already straining to hold back the rising river; on Tuesday night the Coast Guard re-opened the blocked section, and barges were allowed to go through but only one at a time, and at a very low speed

  • More American civil engineers deployed to Japan to study damage

    Last week the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) deployed two more disaster assessment teams to Japan to study the damage wrought by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami; the two teams, the third and fourth deployed by ASCE, will tour the damaged areas which include the approximately 292 square miles inundated by the tsunami; one team will focus on examining the effects that the tsunami and earthquake had on port structures; the other team will focus their efforts on investigating the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on coastal structures like tsunami walls, breakwaters, and seawalls

  • U.S. mayors want greater input in federal transportation funding decisions

    Last week the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) released the results of a recent survey of mayors in 176 cities on local infrastructure investment; the study revealed that mayors want the federal government to spend more money on infrastructure projects in metropolitan areas rather than highway expansion projects; 96 percent of mayors believed the federal government needed to increase spending on transportation infrastructure to fix rapidly deteriorating public infrastructure; a strong majority supported raising the gas tax to provide additional funds to improve infrastructure