The U.S. infrastructure is crying out for attention. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the country needs to spend $4.5 trillion by 2025 to fix the country’s roads, bridges, dams and other critical structures. But that’s not likely to happen soon, especially since government budgets at every level will be strained for the foreseeable future by the economic fallout from COVID-19.
One way to get the job done is to find alternatives to current methods of infrastructure construction. The global composites industry is exploring several technologies that could provide more cost-effective and longer-lasting solutions to these pressing needs. Here are three examples.
Bridge Repair Minus Traffic Jams
Failing bridges are a problem in many parts of the world. In the U.S. alone, more than 231,000 bridges need repair or replacement, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. But bridges closed for repairs often result in unhappy motorists sitting in snarled-up traffic.
FiberCore Europe, based in the Netherlands, has developed a temporary bridge structure that could help ease traffic congestion in these areas in partnership with KWS (a Dutch infrastructure construction company and subsidiary of international construction company VolkerWessels) and in close cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Made from lightweight FRP, the temporary spans can be placed on an existing bridge. This solution keeps traffic moving along the accustomed route while providing plenty of space underneath for contractors to repair road surfaces or transitions between the bridge and abutments.
The structure is called HUGO, which stands for HUlpbrug bij Groot Onderhoud in Dutch and translates to English as “temporary bridge for maintenance roadworks.” After extensive testing of HUGO, KWS is working with the Dutch Ministry to identify five bridge repair projects that will use temporary structures.
HUGO bridges are built with InfraCore® technology, which is specifically designed for use in heavy-duty, load-bearing structures. FiberCore Europe is the civil engineering and construction arm of InfraCore Company, which is developing, marketing and licensing this technology.
According to InfraCore Company, its technology overcomes the cracking and delamination problems of typical FRP bridges by creating a continuous structural connection of the glass or carbon fibers in a multi-layered laminate. The fabric layers partially overlay one another and are interconnected at a slight angle through the entire thickness of the laminate.
FiberCore has been building pre-fabricated, permanent bridges with InfraCore technology for 10 years and recently produced its one-thousandth structure. The company has also developed SUREbridge (Sustainable Refurbishment of Existing bridges), which extends the life and strengthens the structure of existing concrete bridges with the installation of InfraCore FRP panels over the existing surface.