Is This Lab the Key to Fixing America’s Crumbling Bridges?

If the researchers and engineers behind its creation have their way, the lab will revolutionize the world's understanding of bridge performance.

📅   Wed October 21, 2015 - National Edition
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The center hopes to learn how to deal with aging infrastructure issues in a manner not possible before.
The center hopes to learn how to deal with aging infrastructure issues in a manner not possible before.

The website NJ.com is reporting that the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation could very well hold the key to fixing the nation’s crumbling bridges.

There’s nothing else like it on the planet, according to the center, and if the researchers and engineers behind its creation have their way, it will revolutionize the world’s understanding of bridge performance.

By allowing researchers to take replicas of real bridges and superstructures and expedite the process of wear-and-tear on them — shrinking decades of aging from both the environment and heavy traffic into just a few months – the center hopes to learn how to deal with aging infrastructure issues in a manner not possible before.

"In the past the bridge community didn’t have the ability to accurately predict the future performance of individual structures or the complete bridge system," said Robert Clark, division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration. "The good news? That was yesterday. Today we have the BEAST."

When the BEAST is active, the chassis moves back and forth at 20 miles per hour to replicate heavy truck traffic. In 24 hours, the chassis will make over 17,000 passes, applying twice the weight a legal tractor-trailer can carry.

All the while, the four air units will work to fluctuate the temperature inside the chamber, exposing the sample to extreme cold and intense heat.

The system can even simulate rain and harsh de-icing treatments.

According to the center, CAIT and its partners on the project hope the data provided by the BEAST will prove essential to solving the nation’s crumbling infrastructure by helping engineers and managers understand the durability of materials and find the best ways to preserve and rehabilitate existing structures.

The Federal Highway administration estimates that more than 30 percent of all U.S. bridges have exceeded their 50-year design life and according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) there are over 63,000 structurally compromised bridges in the U.S.

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