Composite Bridge Decks

The application of fiberglass composite bridge decks has been under development for some time. The technology has been applied at several sites around the country and engineers and designers are getting comfortable with the technology. It basically combines resin-infused decking panels that are placed over fiberglass composite or steel bridge beams. Sometimes the attachment is mechanical, and sometimes the use of high-strength adhesives carries the load.

Replacing steel and concrete, composite bridge decks claim several advantages. They can be built in a factory as opposed to onsite (better quality control) transported and lifted rather easily, and should be much more resistant to the natural elements of freeze/thaw. One of the big savings is on installation time.

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The on-site construction time is much less, which allows for cost savings from road closures, detours, and site crews.

There has been TONS of Research and Development money spent by several federal, state, and private entities in developing the technology, testing, and specification criteria for this application of composites to the real world. Hurdles that need to be overcome include the acceptance by engineering professionals, infrastructure managers, and the public.

As a Composites Engineer, it sure is neat to see new applications of composites. And as a taxpayer, if it can save some money, I am very excited. As a driver, it sure would be nice to see some of these road projects shortened up!

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