Old Infrastructure Demands New Cost

Aging infrastructure is a significant challenge faced by state departments of transportation, local agencies and bridge owners. There is an overwhelming number of bridges needing upgrades and rehabilitation, and significant cost and limited funds available to maintain highway assets.  The Federal Highway Administration has offered hundreds of millions of dollars of support in the form of federal grants to fund vital bridge improvement projects. Its Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, later known as the Highway Bridge Program, has been the primary source of federal funding for bridges for decades.¹

Examples of bridge rehabilitation include partial or complete deck replacement, superstructure replacement, substructure strengthening or replacement, and associated incidental widening. It is labor intensive and costly to restore the structural integrity of bridges and their elements and components, and to correct any safety defects. In addition, traditional techniques and approaches to bridge repair using concrete and steel may require specific weather conditions in order to be effective. This has the potential to delay repair jobs that already can take weeks to months to complete, further prolonging the disruption to traffic. 

Bridging Faster Repair with Composites

It is now up to agencies and bridge owners to be more strategic in bridge preservation and highway asset management. They should be adopting and implementing systematic processes for bridge preservation as an integral component of their overall asset management.¹ When bridges require immediate rebuild or rehabilitation, agencies and bridge owners are turning to composite materials. These materials have benefits which far outweigh that of traditional materials like concrete and steel. 

Using composite materials such as carbon fiber and epoxy to rehabilitate bridges offers these major benefits:

  • Accelerates repair projects based on lighter-weight material that requires less manpower and allows for quicker installation times
  • Reduces disruption to traffic
  • Resists corrosion by deflecting damage to the surrounding material
  • Creates sustainable structures with greater longevity and the ability to withstand environmental elements
  • Offers a cost-effective alternative to concrete and steel, with lower manufacturing costs due to the flexibility with which they can be produced
  • Increases load capacity for concrete floors and beams
  • Withstands high temperatures to avoid contraction or expansion that can crack structures

With all of these advantages of composite materials, bridges aren’t the only application that is being adopted by the infrastructure and construction industries. Carbon fiber and epoxy are being used in a number of other infrastructure applications, like dam gate composition and pipeline construction, as well as repairing structures like decks, parking garages and pipelines.

Visit Composites One to learn more about how composites enable innovation in infrastructure.