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Problematic CA Bridge Decks to be Tested for Longevity

Friday, April 26, 2019

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The decks of a problematic bridge in California will soon be assessed for longevity, according to reports. The $300,000 study, part of a larger move to evaluate the Bay Area’s state-owned bridges, will examine the condition of the bridge decks.

The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, built in 1956, has an established history of falling concrete and a state official is calling to replace the bridge.

Bridge History

The structure is a metal cantilever rivet-connected warren through truss, measuring just over 21,000 feet while the main span encompasses 1,087 feet. As a whole, the bridge includes six main spans and 137 approach spans.

The first incident, which occurred on the morning Feb. 7, caused the closing of all but one lane of traffic for emergency repairs after a chunk of concrete fell onto a vehicle. No injuries were reported from the incident, but the result of the fallen concrete left a 6-foot cavity beneath the roadway.

Just before 8 p.m. that same evening, Caltrans announced the lanes were reopened and that blame could be pointed to the “wear and tear” from the bridge’s frequent “heavy use."

Metropolitan Transportation Commission

The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, built in 1956, has an established history of falling concrete, and a state official is now calling to replace the bridge.

The second incident was reported earlier this month and resulted in the closure of two eastbound lanes after, again, pieces of concrete fell from the upper to lower deck of the bridge, located just west of the mid-span. But according to Caltrans, the reason for the second incident was not the same as the first.

Inspectors determined that while conducting maintenance work—which involved swapping out 61 aging steel joints—concrete apparently expanded and loosened from the demolition jostling, resulting in the falling pieces onto the barrier system below.

Shortly after, California assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, called to replace the bridge, saying, "Enough with the Band-Aids—let’s have a bridge that will last for generations."

Bridge Deck Study

John Goodwin, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, noted that the study would identify the need to replace the bridge decks, providing more detail than the current assumption based on the age of the structure. Goodwin also added that the study would have been carried out regardless of the bridge’s issues, because of how old the structure is.

Funding for the larger, overall study of the area’s bridges is coming from the 2019-20 state budget or the California Transportation Commission. As for the Richmond-San Rafael bridge study, Colorado-based Bridge Diagnostics Inc. and Massachusetts-based Infrasense Inc. will be using radar, among other surveying tools, to examine the bridge decks for signs of degradation, cracking and other issues. The overall assessment for the bridge will cost $800,000, and completion is slated for March 2020.

Levine noted that the bridge’s lifespan is currently estimated to last another 20 years. The studies could cut down that time frame, however.

“That’s not a hard date, but this asset management plan and these studies will help inform whether that expectation is reasonable,” Levine said. “I’m working with MTC to figure out what the next steps will be to imagine what our alternatives are and potentially what the next span of the bridge would entail.”

As of earlier this week, 10 of the 31 deck joints had been replaced, according to the MTC. The new joints feature a rubberized seal designed to shrink and expand as temperatures fluctuate. This in turn will help prevent cracking of the surrounding concrete road deck.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Quality Control; Research and development; Transportation

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