InTrans / Jul 20, 2020

Local Agency Bridge Innovation and Demonstration Days go virtual, remain successful

The move from two to three days, and from in-person to virtual, was a challenge accepted by the Local Agency Bridge Innovation and Demonstration Days event hosts: the Iowa Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), Bridge Engineering Center, and Buchanan County Secondary Roads Department.

Held for the first time in 2018, welcoming 45 in-person attendees, no one would have guessed their next event in summer 2020 would be so different.

The now three-day event held in June 2020 changed to focus on demonstration rather than training to meet the now virtual model, but still included three presentations each day covering national, state, and local perspectives on various bridge-related subjects, bringing in 150 registered participants from over 10 states.

Day 1 Coverage 

On the first day, participants met with a focus on county funding needs. Two other presentations later that morning provided an overview of two well-tested innovations.

  • Kevin Stone, the executive director of the National Association of County Engineers (NACE) gave an overall status update and outlook as it relates to county funding, including specifics on new congressional funding with a focus on resilient infrastructure.
  • A summary of recent research and case studies on the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Every Day Counts (EDC-5) project bundling initiative was led by Romeo Garcia of the FHWA Office of Infrastructure.
  • Guy Nelson, a structural engineer from Valmont Structures specializing in prefabricated bridge structures, led a discussion on the success of the press brake formed tub girder bridge system.

Stone’s presentation included an overview of a variety of new competitive grants for bridges as well as the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act or the INVEST in America Act. This is a new bill, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 11, which addresses provisions related to federal-aid highway, transit, highway safety, motor carrier, research, hazardous materials, and rail programs of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Stone noted that some of the upcoming funding is concentrated on a “fix it first” mentality, where grants are to go to existing infrastructure and facilities rather than new projects.

Continuing on the topic of funding and budgeting, Garcia’s presentation on project bundling fit right in, as this FHWA-coined strategy helps to reduce overall costs by streamlining project delivery.

“Bridge selection projects are often the most important when meeting agency goals,” said Garcia. “It is important to take advantage of all available measures.”

Day 2 Coverage 

The second day focused on the many uses of galvanized steel in bridge construction with one presentation on Iowa’s box beam bridge construction standards.

The galvanized steel presentations included:

  • An introduction to its benefits by Kevin Irving of the International Zinc Association.
  • A discussion of its use throughout the Cyclone (Buffalo Creek) Bridge in Buchanan County led by Brian Keierleber, Buchanan County Engineer. Keierleber also led a virtual tour of the Buchanan County bridges, find out more here.
  • A summary of recent research on the long-term endurance of galvanized and painted-galvanized pilings by Justin Dahlberg, a research engineer at the Bridge Engineering Center.

Throughout the presentations, several examples of bridges using galvanized steel were shown and included close-ups of components that have withstood the tests of time and weather.

Gary Wisch, of DeLong’s Inc., joined Keierleber during his presentation as the company fabricated the structural (and superstructural) steel on the Cyclone Bridge project. Wisch best summarized the second day’s presentations on galvanized steel in two sentences.

“In general, galvanized steel is more expensive, but lasts longer and requires less maintenance. The final decision regarding which type of coating to use should be made by the owner and engineer.”

The day concluded with Brian Moore of the Iowa County Engineers Association Service Bureau on recent applications of box beam bridges after the state DOT was awarded an Accelerated Innovation Deployment grant to replace eight county box beam bridges.

Day 3 Coverage 

One of the biggest takeaways from the third day could be summed up by presenter Jake Vogel, “[It’s] another tool in your toolbox.” The third day’s presentations focused on discussions about bridge rehabilitation and innovative options for monitoring and analysis, including:

  • An overview of how structural bridge planking can be used for both new and existing bridges led by Jake Vogel, a senior bridge consultant for Contech Engineered Solutions LLC.
  • A summary of research completed by Marian Muste, a professor of hydroscience and engineering at the University of Iowa, focusing on self-cleaning box culverts and its use in Iowa.
  • An exploration of two-dimensional (2D) hydraulic analysis and its use in different types of bridge projects—possibly all bridge projects one day—led by Dave Claman from the Iowa DOT Bridges & Structures Bureau.

Vogel discussed how full bridge replacement has many downsides, including a lengthy bid/funding process. Bridge planking can be used on top of existing planks to extend the lifespan of existing bridges—possibly another 20 to 30 years.

“When you build a new bridge, you have to tear down the old one,” he said. “A bridge plank is a low fidelity solution. [One of the] biggest driving factors is generally how inexpensive it is when compared to full on bridge replacement.”

All presentations chosen for the Local Agency Bridge Innovation and Demonstration Days included research, strategies, and tools that have the potential to provide a number of benefits to local agencies.

And just as 2D hydraulic analysis helps create a more accurate view of a floodplain, this event helped local agencies and engineers ‘accurately view’ all their options. That way they can make cost-saving decisions.

Attendance certificates were provided each day. The Local Agency Bridge Innovation and Demonstration Days were funded by the Iowa Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.