WAYNE – An international team of engineers and researchers, each dressed in a yellow vest and hard hat, on Tuesday poked and prodded – so to speak – at a steel string bridge, looking for signs of deterioration & corrosion.
International engineers conduct a study of highway bridge deterioration using a bridge on Route. 23 in Wayne for the test.
As drivers whizzed by without giving thought to the condition of the structure, the engineers were unleashing a variety of high tech tools – ground penetrating radar, ultrasonic equipment and impact echoing technology – to aid them in evaluating the bridge deck that spans Route 23. The bridge carries traffic over Mountainview Boulevard in Wayne
They are part of the “International Bridge Study,” a project organized by the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University
in June 2010. It brings together engineers and researchers from Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Korea, the United States and other nations to study the North Jersey bridge, according to Carl Blesch, a spokesman for Rutgers University.
Their purpose is two-fold. They are looking for ways to identify bridge corrosion early so that it can be treated earlier – when the cost is less expensive. They are also looking for ways to treat corrosion that extends the life of infrastructure in their own countries.
“We have no sustainable path forward to manage our infrastructure,” said Franklin Moon, an associate professor of structural engineering at Drexel University, a lead engineer on the project.
“If you want a public infrastructure system, someone has to pay for it. Public infrastructure costs more now than it has to cost,” he said. “We’re spending a lot of money on repairs we might not need to do if we can catch them early.”
Moon said there are 600,000 bridges in the nation and 66,000 in New Jersey. He said he believes agencies are spending more to maintain bridges than they need to because bridge repairs often do not occur until the deterioration has progressed significantly.
He said corrosion expands the rebar in the bridge and when it expands, it pops the concrete, creating a pothole. If the corrosion is detected earlier, it can be treated – with a corrosion inhibitor, for instance – which can prevent it from expanding, he said.
“It’s analogous to finding cancer early so you can deal with it,” he said. “Find cancer late and you’re in trouble … If you let that go to the point that it’s spalling and you’ve got potholes, now you’re out there with a jack hammer and replacing it.”
Moon said the New Jersey Department of Transportation selected the Wayne bridge to study because it is representative of 2,600 other bridges in the state. They all have similar drainage, deck quality and vibration issues, he said.
This bridge, which was built in 1983, handles about 73,100 vehicles a day, said Tim Greeley, spokesman for the state transportation department.
It was last inspected in July 2010, and “is in overall fair condition,” he said.
Greeley said all bridges 20-feet in length or longer are inspected at least every two years.
The teams will meet for a workshop June 14 and 15 to share findings and make recommendations.