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FL Bridge Repair Could Prompt Inspection Reform

Friday, February 5, 2021

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After a statewide inspection of segmental bridges, the Florida Department of Transportation has concluded that the Roosevelt Bridge is the only one of its kind in the state that’s suffering from corrosion issues.

The inspection comes after cracks were found in the bridge in June, and FDOT is now calling for reforms on how these bridges are inspected.

Roosevelt Bridge History

According to TC Palm, in 1917 the Palm Beach County Commission awarded an $80,000 bid for the construction of a 14-foot-wide bridge, with a 120-foot swing span. However, the onset of World War I added an additional $10,000 to the cost of steel. A year later, the bridge opened at the end of January, and went by the Henry Flagler Bridge.

A little over a decade later, a new bridge was ordered at the cost of $500,000 and was named for former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This bascule structure—a kind of drawbridge—was completed in 1934. Thirty years later, a second span was ordered for the bridge, with a price tag of $4 million.

Due to continuous failures and monumental traffic jams, both on the road and boats traveling on the river below, officials endured 15 years of public hearings and intense lobbying in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., for the bridge's official replacement.

While the decision landed on the construction of two new spans—with some help from architect Andres Duany—reports indicate that many residents actually had preferred a tunnel under the river.

After three years of construction, in 1997, the new Roosevelt Bridge was dedicated on Nov. 1. The twin segmental box girder bridge stands 65 feet above the river, measures 4,566 feet from shore to shore, with both spans measuring 62 feet wide, each carrying three lanes of traffic.

Together, the two spans sit on 74 piers and support 1,112 concrete segments, each weighing 80 tons. Construction efforts for the bridge project reportedly used more than 58,000 cubic yards of concrete, 1,015 miles of steel reinforcing bar or rebar, 650 miles of steel cable and 8,500 feet of fiberglass pipe to drain 19,046 gallons per minute off the bridge.

TC Palm reports that the bridge replacement project cost $83.7 million, with federal agencies covering 80% and the remaining 20% by state and local entities. Italian firm Recchie America, Inc., now known as America-Condotte, was the prime contractor on the bridge replacement project.

Bridge designers involved with the project included: LoBuono; Armstrong and Associates (Tallahassee); Reynolds, Smith & Hills (Jacksonville); and Finley McNary Engineers (Tallahassee).

The Damage

Parts of the bridge were closed for more than a month; following routine biannual inspection on June 16, the United States Coast Guard ruled that the structure was “at risk of an imminent collapse,” and the FDOT District Four office closed the structure to road traffic, as well as commercial boating traffic on the St. Lucie River below, until a thorough safety inspection could be completed.

Construction crews were reportedly conducting unrelated road work when they noticed the damage on the bridge and called police authorities.

During their inspection, FDOT engineers found that rust in the steel cables had been exposed when the concrete fell and further revealed an area of concern on the northbound side of the bridge, as well.

As a result of the discovery, officials shut down the southbound lanes while the northbound lanes were split to accommodate both directions for travelers. The Coast Guard also facilitated a safety zone to stop commercial maritime traffic from passing under the bridge.

Officials are reportedly testing bridge materials in laboratories in Gainesville, Florida, and have now said that the corrosion in the southbound lanes was not found in the northbound side.

After minor repairs, four lanes were opened to traffic on June 27, with two lanes each reserved for north and southbound travel.

An FDOT update earlier this month detailed that law enforcement remains at the bridge to enforce a 5-ton weight limit.

About 10 days after the cracks and falling concrete were discovered, state officials reopened four of the structure’s six lanes and announced a plan to review bridge inspection procedures for the 84 segmental bridges in the state. Reportedly, the 2018 Roosevelt Bridge Report prompted the review.

The Fix

In July, FDOT completed its assessment announced forthcoming repair work that it initially said would take about four months, depending on weather and material availability.

FDOT released its initial findings July 17 in a press release saying that it found “that the broken tendons on span one of the southbound bridge are the only major structural repairs that are necessary before reopening the bridge to traffic.”

The agency added that it has selected Structural Technologies LLC to assist with the finalization of the design plans and to complete the repairs to the bridge.

In addition to the tendon repairs, FDOT said it also found corrosion at locations on both bridges that also needs addressed. The agency said that after the bridge’s strength is restored and the bridge is fully reopened to traffic, it will then perform work to address the corrosion, which should have little impact on traffic.

“The cause of the corrosion is still under review at this time,” the agency added. “FDOT continues to collect samples from the bridges and is sending them to the FDOT materials lab for further examination. The collection of samples is a very methodical process and is taking place along the entirety of the nearly mile-long bridges.”

Repairs and related costs are coming in at at least $2.6 million.

What Now

Late last month, FDOT presented the findings of its initial investigation of the corrosion, which is when the Department called for inspection reform.

"If it were me, the whole country would change how it tested segmental bridges because of this," District 4 Secretary Gerry O'Reilly told the Martin Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The state has 42 segmental box girder bridges, and none were found to have the same type of corrosion, leaving what went wrong on the Roosevelt Bridge still a mystery. This, though, is why O’Reilly says there needs to be a change.

"That's the purpose of doing all of that analysis," O'Reilly told TCPalm. "Hopefully they reach some conclusions that shed some light on that."

FDOT is expected to recommend annual inspections instead of biannual and a more hands-on approach to checking for corrosion, which could possibly include concrete and steel sampling.

The two main issues for the bridge’s corrosion, according to FDOT, were water intrusion and the grout that fills the bridge. O’Reilly said that the spaces where the segments are connected appear to be areas where water seeped into the surface of the structure. Moisture was then able to get to the steel cables, leading to corrosion.

FDOT has since sealed the bridge deck and replace the grout with wax around the tendons that were affected.

On top of that, the bridge is now getting two additional safety measures, including acoustic monitoring and strain gauges.

A final, in-depth evaluation is expected in May and repairs are expected to be completed this month.



Tagged categories: Bridge cables; Bridges; Bridges; Corrosion; CORROSION; Inspection; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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