Louis N. Triandafilou acts as a liaison between the FHWA and the composites industry. In addition to working with AASHTO’s subcommittee on bridges, he also attends and hosts a variety of conferences to keep FRPs in the forefront of bridge applications.
What states are the most prolific composite adopters?
We would consider West Virginia one of the leading states in implementing FRP composites, going back to the 1980s. Starting in the mid-1990s, Dr. Hota GangaRao has done research in helping the state get several projects built in many areas: deck sections, wrapping and pipe projects. We also worked with them to put out a handbook on FRP projects, which was distributed to states as well as transportation centers. Hota helps keep West Virginia in the forefront and recently hosted a workshop together with the state DOT to explore implementing composites from the rehabilitation aspect, more for strengthening structures and using FRP wrapping than anything else.
What do you see as a bigger opportunity for composites: repair and strengthening or new structure creation?
Right now, it seems like the most common use of composites we’re seeing nowadays is for strengthening and upgrading existing bridges that need repair or have been deteriorated. We’re also seeing more interest in the FRP rebar projects, which use composites instead of steel to reinforce bridges. The whole area of specifications has been key in this area, as it is with any new technology. Getting those specifications adopted by the AASHTO bridge group is a big step in mainstreaming FRP composites.
What other states are using composites?
New York, Ohio, and Maine are also prolific composites adopters. Ohio, in particular, has an ongoing initiative for building a composite bridge in each of its county and state districts. That would mean at least 100 projects. Other states, such as Louisiana, Oregon, Florida, Missouri, Virginia and Maryland have all done a couple of projects. A lot of these states are using composites to solve problems with de-icing salts or high humidity environments that lead to higher rates of corrosion.
What applications could incorporate more composites?
Bridge decks or superstructures, which would be a bridge without beams, are a big one. We had the Innovative Bridge Research and Construction (IBRC) program under the former highway bill T21, where states could submit proposals for projects to incorporate high-performance bridge materials. More than half the projects were FRP related and a lot of those were deck projects or superstructures. A lot of suppliers got involved, but since that program has ended without complete specifications as to the usage of composites in decks, there haven’t been as many deck projects underway. However, there is a specification in the works through the T6 committee. They received completed work done by three university people who put together a very extensive specification for testing and acceptance criteria for deck projects. It’s been in committee for a couple of years, but there needs to be a meeting of the minds between industry and state DOTs as far as completing that specification.