A mid-Michigan highway bridge has been under close watch by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for some time. It is showing signs of aging with cracks in the bridge’s 5-foot concrete beams.

This spring, the bridge carrying M-57 across U.S. 127 south of Ithaca will be repaired with using carbon fiber-reinforced polymer to put a stop to the deterioration.

At the time, the cracks don’t appear severe; however, construction crews will begin to wrap the beams in a plastic matrix embedded with carbon fibers to prevent any future problems. According to the engineers, the carbon fiber is lightweight but can easily double the strength of the concrete.

“At this site, the contractor will apply an adhesive, embed the carbon fiber sheet, and let it cure,” says Anita Richardson, spokesperson for MDOT. The carbon fiber-polymer matrix will reduce the pressure on the cracks and keep the bridge safe.

Out of the five bids on this project, the Davis Construction Co. was the lowest bidder. The Lansing firm’s bid of about $478,000 was more than 30 percent below the original engineering estimates. According to Richardson, the carbon fiber wrapping was selected due to relatively low cost and it was less invasive than the other alternatives.

Work on the bridge project is scheduled to begin in mid-April and should be done before the Independence Day holiday.