New bridge technology under investigation

BridgeComposites LLC will use a $460,305 U.S. Federal Highway Administration grant to improve materials and manufacturing methods to reduce the cost of the composite bridge decking system and test it on a bridge project.


The U.S. Federal Highway Admin. (FHWA) reports that one of its newest Technology Partnerships projects will develop and demonstrate corrosion-resistant, lightweight bridge decking for rapid installation on moveable bridges. The moveable bridge category encompasses drawbridges, bascule bridges (single- or double-leaf), vertical-lift bridges and swing bridges, all of which require lightweight decks.

BridgeComposites LLC (Hornell, N.Y.) will use a $460,305 FHWA grant from the Highways for LIFE Technology Partnerships Program to improve materials and manufacturing methods, reducing the cost of a composite decking system and then test the system on a bridge project. The BridgeComposites deck system is the eighth technology to benefit from Partnerships Program grants, which are awarded to private industry to move closer to commercialization of promising late-stage prototypes that are designed to reduce construction congestion and enhance highway quality and safety. State highway agencies reportedly have expressed interest in composite bridge decking for use on moveable bridges because the lightweight material can reduce operating expenses and lifecycle costs compared to today’s corrosion-prone steel grating decks. The New York State Department of Transportation developed a bridge deck at the University at Buffalo made primarily of fiber-reinforced polymer composite materials. Lab tests showed that the deck meets American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials loading requirements, installs quickly and easily and endures the repeated loadings required for a long service life. The funding will permit evaluation of alternate materials and production methods during deck development. The methods will include pultrusion and vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding. Designs will be tested to determine the most economical combination of geometry, materials and fabrication method. Detailed manufacturing specs and shop drawings will be produced to encourage broad acceptance among engineers.

To reduce cost, the deck will be used on a fixed-span bridge in Allegany County, N.Y., to demonstrate the practicality of the installation procedures and connection details, but future use is anticipated on moveable-span bridges. Partners include Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pa.), LeTourneau University (Longview, Texas), Integrated Materials and Applied Computing Inc. (Buffalo, N.Y.) and XC Associates (Stephentown, N.Y.).


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