One technological breakthrough on the Morgan County bridge was the method of applying the asphalt wearing surface to the composite decking. This typically happens on-site after the bridge is installed. “We felt it was very important to get that out of the field and into an environment where everything was controlled,” says Lewit. “Our system comes with a technology – CoCure® combined with aggregate – that makes a super tough wear surface. The urethane component gives us a really strong adhesion to the deck.”
The completed bridge sections were placed on a flat-bed semi-trailer and transported to Morgan County. Because the sections were so lightweight, crews were able to install them in one day using a forklift. There was no need to rent a crane, which further reduced installation time and costs.
The bridge opened to traffic in the spring of 2021. McCay says that Miller is sold on the benefits of composite decking and hopes to use it again on other bridges that need repair. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has also expressed interest in the technology. “The use of fiber-reinforced polymer bridge deck units … has the potential to greatly enhance the performance, durability and service life of our low-volume rural bridge network across the state,” said Ted Kniazewycz, TDOT structures division director, in a statement.
The project partners are confident that the Morgan County bridge will serve as a model for other jurisdictions looking for cost-effective, long-term solutions for fixing their bridge infrastructure. While they hope the performance data they collect will convince state DOTs to try out the composite decking on larger bridges, they realize they have uncovered an urgent need in rural communities and found a solution that will work well for them. Lewit says he would like to see democratized or distributed manufacturing of the technology. That approach would allow local composite fabricators to build the decking components for bridges in their areas, bringing more jobs into those communities.
In the meantime, the bridge in Morgan County has already yielded many benefits. “It was a win/win/win project,” says McCay. “It was an opportunity to get a technology that could be a game-changer out in the marketplace, to do it in a community that has a need that gets fulfilled and to collaborate with other companies in the industry.”