• Richard Krolewski

Extending the Life of Bridges

As Congress struggles to reach an agreement on rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, Departments of Transportation are left with the day-to-day challenge of keeping the nation’s highways and bridges safe for motorists. Some of the most viable solutions for repairing bridges I’ve seen in recent years come from Michigan-based Fortec Stabilization systems.

I recently visited a major restoration project of the Florida Department of Transportation. Contractors are repairing the bridge deck of the mile-long Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Florida, about 80 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. FDOT is a leader in pursuing composite reinforcement and new technology in its service to the public, and the Roosevelt Bridge project is an example of the innovations offered by Fortec.

Fortec’s Kevlar® Stratum product is being used on this project, as it provides superior strength and bonding on the bridge deck by sealing out moisture, which prevents corrosion of the segmental steel reinforcement. The system spreads the load away from the joints, increasing the life of the overlay at the seams and therefore extending the timeframe between deck repairs.

The Kevlar® is laid down on the surface over the damaged portions of the deck, then affixed with the epoxy coating that includes a silica sand that helps embed the repair into the decking. The result is a smooth, long-lasting repair that costs a fraction of the of the investment of resurfacing the entire bridge.

While some bridges are too far gone to be repaired, many can be outfitted with this economical solution. FDOT is studying the cause of corrosion on the bridge, and the preliminary findings point to water seepage through small cracks in the deck. Once the water reaches the steel reinforcement, it triggers a downward cycle that leads to bigger cracks, more water seepage and increased problems. This type of corrosion is common in marine environments, but is also an issue in colder climates where the silica used for traction control on snow-packed roads can cause premature deterioration of the surface.

An innovative system for smooth, long-lasting repairs.

Fortec is a division of Fortress Stabilization, a company well-known for its residential basement foundation stabilization systems. Full disclosure: Fortec Stabilization is now an Alliance Partner of Regulatory Resources LLC. We are working with them to build awareness of their bridge reinforcement systems as they are proving to be a viable way of extending the life of bridges and highway surfaces, which in turn helps DOT dollars go further.

In addition to the Kevlar® product, Fortec offers many other composite products such carbon fiber wraps for cracking and crumbling columns. Beyond that, they are the leading innovator in the development of composite anchoring technologies, which creates more opportunities for composites to be used as viable bridge repair and reinforcement options. The goal of this partnership is that we can prove and provide economical solutions for cash-strapped DOTs that, frankly, can’t afford to replace every deteriorating bridge. Extending the life of bridges that can be saved is a viable option that is good for taxpayers. That's what makes the Fortec system attractive.

If a technology is good for DOTs, we’re all for it! As the facilitator of the DOT Advisory Board, I am committed to furthering their mission of advancing new technology to rebuilding transportation infrastructure in an economical, environmentally conscious and long-lasting way.

We’ll be writing more about composite materials and how they can be the future of infrastructure rebuilding. But for now, hats off to FDOT for deploying this 21st century technology to the age-old problem of deteriorating bridge decking.

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