• U.S. infrastructure lagging far behind Europe

    America’s transportation infrastructure is quickly falling behind the rest of the world as roads continue to fall into disrepair, railroad lines age, and airports become more congested resulting in longer commute times, more delays, and increasing transportation-related fatalities; the United States now ranks twenty-third overall for infrastructure quality between Spain and Chile; government expenditures on infrastructure have fallen to just 2.4 percent of GDP; in contrast Europe invests 5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure and China 9 percent; U.S. infrastructure investment has fallen behind largely as a result of the highway trust fund’s declining revenues, which are generated from gas and vehicle taxes

  • California roads to generate renewable energy

    California lawmakers recently passed a bill for a pilot program that would turn road vibrations into energy; the bill proposes using a process called piezoelectric generation that captures energy from cars, trains, or people as they move across surfaces and create vibrations; these vibrations are then harnessed and converted into energy by piezoelectric materials that would be buried beneath the road’s surface; a .6 single lane road can prove as much as forty-four megawatts of energy each year, which is enough to light up more than 30,000 homes

  • California school building regulators had ties with anti-regulation lobby group

    A California watchdog group recently revealed that state officials in charge of enforcing earthquake standards for school buildings have had a long and questionable relationship with a lobbying group that actively works to oppose building safety regulations in public schools; senior officials with the Division of the State Architect had been dues paying members of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, which actively lobbies for less regulation on school construction; in 1997, state regulators were told that taxpayers would reimburse their membership dues to be a part of the lobbying group; officials maintain that there has been no corruption; in 2010 a major regulatory provision in place since 1933 was removed

  • Recycled concrete saves money

    Purdue University civil engineers are working with the Indiana Department of Transportation to perfect the use of recycled concrete for highway construction, a strategy that could reduce material costs by as much as 20 percent; “If you are going to pave, you may have to remove the old concrete and break it into pieces anyway, so recycling makes sense,” one of the researchers says

  • Secret bomb-proofing building design posted on the Web

    The Pentagon is building two towers in Alexandria, Virginia, to house 6,400 personnel; the Army Corps of Engineers inadvertently posted the bomb-proofing specifications for the new buildings on the Web; experts say this will allow terrorist to learn how to circumvent the building defenses; there is another problem; the documents reveal that the specifications call for the building to be designed to resist threats posed by vehicle bombs detonated outside the building’s security perimeter carrying the equivalent of 220 pounds of TNT; experts say this is not enough; Timothy McVeigh used 4,000 pounds of TNT in Oklahoma City in 1995; the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center involved 900 pounds; the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 involved 12,000 pounds of TNT

  • Lessons from Japan's tsunami could dramatically shift building codes

    American tsunami experts and engineers are scouring the devastation wrought by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami to analyze how structures fared during the natural disasters and what lessons can be applied to U.S. building codes; experts are particularly concerned about the toppling of a reinforced-concrete building as that has been the baseline for tsunami construction and evacuation procedures; experts were stunned by the devastation and are concerned about America’s West Coast which is significantly less prepared than Japan for an earthquake or tsunami; in particular experts are concerned about Oregon which shares many geological similarities to Japan’s northeastern coast; researchers hope to learn valuable lessons that will minimize the destruction from a similar event in the United States

  • Much of earthquake damage in Japan caused by "liquefaction"

    The massive subduction zone earthquake in Japan caused a significant level of soil “liquefaction” that has surprised researchers with its widespread severity, a new analysis shows; the findings also raise questions about whether existing building codes and engineering technologies are adequately accounting for this phenomenon in other vulnerable locations, which in the United States include Portland, Oregon, parts of the Willamette Valley, and other areas of Oregon, Washington, and California

  • Strong fabric can be used to protect buildings from explosion

    Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is a fabric that can carry 143,000 pounds of force per square inch; University of Missouri researcher collaborates with the U.S. Army to test a method of retrofitting buildings to protect them in the case of a terrorist attack; to protect a building from an extreme event, CFRP can be used to increase the bending capacity of walls or columns

  • Shoring up U.K. infrastructure essential to country's welfare

    The United Kingdom suffers from some of the most congested infrastructure in the developed world and a failure to invest in these will have serious impacts upon the country’s long-term economic future; improvements to transport, energy, and ICT infrastructure could increase GDP by an additional 0.7 percent

  • Massachusetts to spend record $1.2 billion on road and bridge projects

    This year Massachusetts is on track to spend a record $1.2 billion on state road and bridge projects, more than double what it spent in 2007; the state’s latest project is the repair of a structurally deficient bridge over Lake Lashaway and the reconstruction of a dam spillway near the bridge in the town of East Brookfield; the reconstruction of the bridge comes as part of a broader effort by Governor Deval Patrick to invest record amounts of funding in critical infrastructure repairs; last year, the Governor spent nearly a billion dollars on 400 road and bridge projects across the state; a recent study found that one in nine bridges in Massachusetts was in need of repair

  • Report finds thousands of U.S. bridges in dangerous need of repair

    Last week a new report found that nearly 12 percent of the bridges in the United States were “structurally deficient” and required replacement; the report found that major repairs and critical maintenance has often been delayed as states are struggling with budget shortfalls; the average age of bridges across the country is nearing forty-two years, and most were designed to have a fifty year lifespan before they were replaced or reconstructed; Transportation for America has called for increased federal funding for infrastructure to help make repairs; the American Society of Civil Engineers has recommended that the United States spend $17 billion a year on bridge maintenance, significantly more than the $10.5 billion that is currently spent each year

  • Waste ash from coal could save billions in repairing U.S. bridges and roads

    The more than 450 coal-burning electric power plants in the United States produce about 130 million tons of “flyash” each year; before air pollution laws, those fine particles of soot and dust flew up smokestacks and into the air; power plants now collect the ash; researchers say that coating concrete destined to rebuild America’s crumbling bridges and roadways with some of the millions of tons of that left-over ash could extend the life of those structures by decades, saving billions of dollars of taxpayer money

  • California schools seismically unsafe, lack funding for retrofits

    Hundreds of thousands of students across California are at risk, as school districts have not retrofitted aging concrete buildings that are susceptible to collapse; the state has identified dozens of structures at schools that are at risk of collapsing in a strong earthquake, but most are still in use and have no plans for repairs; engineers are particularly concerned about old concrete school buildings that were erected before 1976; these structures are constructed with “non-ductile” concrete, a type of material that did not hold up well in the recent earthquake in New Zealand; cash-strapped school districts are hesitant to begin long and expensive retrofitting projects even with state help

  • Senate proposes new $10 billion "infrastructure bank"

    Several U.S. Senators are pushing for the creation of a $10 billion “infrastructure bank” to spur investment in new infrastructure and to repair America’s rapidly aging roads, power grids, and bridges; the bill could attract as much as $640 billion in private investment over the next ten years; the Obama administration has proposed a similar plan; the bank would be self-sustaining as it is not allowed to finance more than 50 percent of a project’s costs; this bill faces an uncertain future given the current Congressional budget climate

  • Oregon declares state of emergency to repair damaged ports

    The 11 March tsunami born of Japan’s 8.9 magnitude quake battered U.S. coasts and ports from Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest to southern California; the governor’s office in Hawaii expects damages to run about $10 million with estimates heading toward $50 million in California; one county in Oregon is reporting $25 million worth of destruction in one of three damaged ports