In a recent study of inspection reports, design documents and other data to evaluate the safety performance of bridge barriers, investigators found that the most commonly used barrier designs meet newer safety requirements and keep Minnesota drivers safe.Continue reading Assessing Bridge Barriers for Today’s Vehicle Needs
This article was originally published in Catalyst, August 2020.
On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Its replacement, open to traffic just over a year later, was instrumented with more than 500 sensors to record the new structure’s behavior and evaluate the effectiveness of different monitoring strategies. A 10-year review of the bridge’s monitoring system is now available from U of M researchers.Continue reading Monitoring System Provides Decade of Data From I-35W Bridge
Reinforced concrete bridges are built to handle heavy loads and routine traffic for 75 years or more. But bridges in climates like Minnesota’s are exposed to moisture and chlorides from road salts that may penetrate these structures and corrode the steel.
In a recently completed research project, funded by MnDOT and the Local Road Research Board, researchers studied a rural bridge built in 2017 near Elgin, MN, that used glass fiber–reinforced polymer (GFRP) rebar in the bridge deck. They found that GFRP performed well, proving sufficiently strong for use as an alternative to corrosion-susceptible steel rebar.Continue reading GFRP Rebar Shows Promise for Use in Bridge Decks
Well-documented efforts undertaken two decades ago to mitigate corrosion of a Highway 394 reinforced concrete bridge have given researchers the perfect scenario for evaluating the treatments’ long-term effectiveness. The test results are mixed: State-of-the-art methods for electrochemical chloride extraction and fiber-reinforced polymer wrapping of bridge elements performed well in combination, but poorly in isolation.Continue reading Methods to Mitigate Bridge Corrosion Show Mixed Results 20 Years Later
A new spreadsheet tool developed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation draws on historical data to help project engineers better estimate bridge construction time. The method allows users to project time-frames based on bridge design elements, work scheduling and other inputs, utilizing estimates from comparable projects in a 10-year database of bridge-building data.Continue reading Putting Research Into Practice: New Tool Estimates Bridge Construction Time
A new MnDOT-funded research study has found that most agencies in states with weather similar to Minnesota’s use debonded strands in prestressed concrete bridge beams. MnDOT may begin piloting debonding as an alternative to draping, which manufacturers claim is time-consuming, challenging to worker safety and expensive.Continue reading Using Debonded Strands to Reduce End Stress in Bridge Beams
Sound barriers and snow fences along highways have the potential to provide clean energy in Minnesota.
A newly funded MnDOT study, Harnessing Solar Energy through Noise Barriers and Structural Snow Fencing, is investigating how to utilize existing noise barriers and snow fences on Minnesota highways to harvest clean, cost-effective energy.Continue reading Study Underway to Harness Renewable Energy from Minnesota’s Highways
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) had suspended the use of post-installed epoxy-coated rebar for concrete barrier repairs as a precautionary measure because chemical adhesives used in the process are not designed for use with coated bars. But laboratory testing (conducted in a recent MnDOT-sponsored research study) has now shown that using these adhesives with coated rebar for post-installation works well and provides a safety level 200 to 300 times that predicted by manufacturer specifications. MnDOT is considering research recommendations to modify the installation process in order to resume using coated rebar in post-installed concrete crash barriers.Continue reading Using Chemical Adhesives to Post-Install Epoxy-Coated Rebar in Concrete
Bridge decks reinforced with one layer of epoxy-coated rebar and a bottom layer of uncoated steel rebar show corrosion damage sooner than decks constructed with all epoxy-coated rebar. Inspection methods should be enhanced to add a rating for cracking density on the underside of bridge decks. Repairs to mixed rebar decks should be conducted once a key deck surface inspection element has received a condition rating of two and held that rating for seven years, which is sooner than the average repair time of 8.5 years.Continue reading Epoxy-Coated Rebar Bridge Decks Outperform Mixed Rebar Decks
A Minnesota Department of Transportation research study has developed a new method for estimating vertical displacements on bridges using accelerometers installed on the Interstate 35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge in Minneapolis. The dual-model approach shows potential for using these sensors to measure vertical displacement on steel, cable-stayed and other less-stiff bridges where traffic generates higher vibration frequencies. The method expands the industry’s knowledge of how to use smart sensors in new ways.
What Was the Need?
Since September 2008, the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge has carried traffic over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and funneled sensor data to researchers and MnDOT bridge engineers. This smart bridge features over 500 sensors that monitor strain, load distribution, temperature, bridge movement, and other forces and functions.
Sensors help designers and bridge managers learn more about how bridges shift and flex over time. Concrete expands and contracts, and bearings shift; sensor systems continuously gather data about these minute changes, offering an alternative to time-consuming inspection.
Researchers continue to identify potential uses for sensor data and new ways to use such information to analyze bridge properties and performance. In a 2017 study about monitoring bridge health, researchers learned to distinguish and associate specific vibration frequencies with structural damage, weather conditions and other factors. These frequencies were gathered by accelerometers, which measure structural vibrations triggered by traffic and environmental conditions.
Decks, piers and other structural elements displace vertically under loads and environmental conditions. Researchers and bridge managers wanted to know if accelerometers could be used to measure vertical displacements and help monitor bridge health.
What Was Our Goal?
MnDOT needed a procedure for measuring and monitoring vertical displacement on bridges under traffic and environmental forces. Investigators would use the sensor systems on the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge to design and analyze this procedure.
“We need to learn more about sensors because we don’t have a lot of experience with them. This study gave us valuable information about accelerometers and the information they provide,” said Benjamin Jilk, Complex Analysis and Modeling Design Leader, MnDOT Bridge Office.
What Did We Do?
Indirect analysis and measurement of vertical displacements rely on estimations obtained through modeling. Investigators evaluated the most well-developed approach for measuring vibration frequencies like those tracked by accelerometers and refined the method. The team developed a dual-model approach: One model estimates loads and the other estimates displacements.
In a laboratory, investigators evaluated the impact of loading on displacement and vibration frequencies on a girder with contact sensors and accelerometers under moving and stationary loads. Researchers applied the dual-model analysis to laboratory displacement readings to compare the effectiveness of the model with contact sensor responses to loading.
Using laboratory data, investigators tuned the dual-model approach to accelerometer data available from the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge. The research team then applied its identified tuning approach to the data from the bridge’s 26 accelerometers to determine the procedure’s suitability for estimating vertical displacement from vibration response on this bridge and its potential for other structures in the MnDOT bridge system.