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NZ Bridge Used for Seismic Research

Friday, May 22, 2020

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New Zealand officials have recently announced that its decommissioned Whirokino Trestle and Manawatu River Bridge in Foxton will be repurposed for University of Auckland-headed research on seismic activity in infrastructure.

The 1930s Whirokino Trestle and 1940s Manawatu River Bridge span across the Manawatu River and an adjacent floodway on the west coast of the lower North Island of New Zealand and have recently been replaced by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

The design and construction project cost $70 million and was reportedly competed earlier this year. Work was carried out by Arup NZ and involved widening roadways and incorporating a ground improvement system comprised of interconnected in-ground (cellular) walls of overlapping concrete columns.

Repurposed Seismic Research

According to the University of Auckland, lecturer Lucas Hogan from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department has compiled enough seismic research to create what the university calls a “groundbreaking partnership between a multitude of government, academic and corporate organizations.”

University of Auckland

New Zealand officials have recently announced that its decommissioned Whirokino Trestle and Manawatu River Bridge in Foxton will be repurposed for University of Auckland-headed research on seismic activity in infrastructure.

With the recent decommission of the 90-year-old bridge, Hogan noted that the infrastructure is a unprecedented opportunity to do “real life” testing on how bridges behave under earthquake circumstances.

“We have done a lot of bridge testing in the lab, and this is a unique opportunity to put a real bridge through its paces and even push it to failure,” said Hogan.

“A big focus will be on how the piles holding the bridge up behave in earthquake conditions. These types of piles are used in around half of all bridges in New Zealand, and many internationally, so it’s very practical science.”

The project is being funded by the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and QuakeCoRE, carried out in cooperation with bridge-owner Waka Kotahi. Demolition sub-contractors will also be working alongside lead contractor Brian Perry Civil—a division of Fletcher—who is ensuring that the deconstruction program will fit with the research team’s scientific requirements.

“We’re really pleased to be part of the team on this project,” said Jo Horrocks, Head of Strategic Research and Resilience at EQC. “That we have so many organizations involved shows the importance of ensuring New Zealand has resilient infrastructure.”

Horrocks reports that the Commission invests over $17 million each year to research materials for stronger homes and infrastructure to withstand natural hazards.

While the research project has been planned for two years, Hogan and his colleague Max Stephens has to wait until the area’s COVID-19 lockdown was lowered to Level 3 in order to begin the first phase of research. The first phase will involve the installation of monitoring instruments on the bridge as to observe how the structure moves dynamically, reported Hogan.

“Because seismic waves travel at a finite speed, one end of a bridge will start shaking before the other,” said Hogan. “In a long bridge, this can potentially cause a whipsaw effect. While many computer models have shown this effect, there is very little physical testing to prove it.

“The Whirokino Bridge provides an opportunity to see how these long bridges behave, which is very important given that there are many such bridges over braided rivers in the South Island. This will tell us a lot about how these bridges behave after 90 years in service. Having the whole bridge means we can also test potential fixes for making the columns and piles more robust which could be used on any similar bridges if needed.”

The project is slated to take place over 10 weeks and in other phases, will involve the removal of sections to test at the University of Auckland. Additional testing on the piles onsite to simulate the stresses of earthquake shaking by pushing and pulling in a controlled manner is also planned.

Earthquake Infrastructure

In the fall of 2016, PaintSquare Daily News reported that a bridge apart of Seattle’s SR99 project would be the first large-scale application of a new set of structural materials that will be “earthquake-proof,” bending and flexing in the event of a quake, then returning to form, as to remain usable.

The structure planned to utilize rebar made of a nickel-titanium shape-memory alloy that returns to its original form after being stressed. This rebar will be used in the top five feet of the columns holding up the deck.

The engineered composite is a product of the research of Dr. Saiid Saiidi, of the University of Nevada, Reno, where, for more than 30 years, the Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research has been developing materials and plans to help structures survive seismic activity.

In 2017, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was reported to undergo seismic retrofit. Previously, seismic work on the northern approach, southern approach and the north anchorage house had been completed, leaving the last piece of the decades-long project left for the center suspension segment.

This final phase was estimated to cost between $450 and $500 million. Spokesman Priya Clemens said at the time that they hoped to advertise for the contract later that year.

The following year, a replacement bridge being built south of Los Angeles was slated to be a first for those interested in monitoring seismic activity: Sensors were factored into the design of the span from day one, rather than being added later, which allowed for new data-monitoring opportunities.

The new 8,800-foot-long span over the Port of Long Beach, replacing the Gerald Desmond Bridge, is being constructed with 75 seismic sensors.

What makes the bridge the ideal candidate for using these sensors is its location—the span is just a few miles from two active faults, Newport-Inglewood and Palos Verdes. Data recorded by sensors built into the design will be sent via the state's Integrated Seismic Network to scientists working at state offices in Sacramento, and also sent to the University of California, Berkeley, as well as Pasadena's California Institute of Technology.

While the project was expected to open in 2019, the project, among other infrastructure efforts, recently received a $500 million loan under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The bridge replacement is expected to wrap up by July of this year.


Tagged categories: Australia; Bridges; Bridges; Building materials; Colleges and Universities; Hazards; Infrastructure; OC; Project Management; Quality control; Quality Control; Research and development

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