Tue July 14, 2009
UB and Calspan Partner to Improve Bridge Design
By Joyce Kryszak
Cheektowaga, NY – A bridge collapse two years ago in Minnesota plunged cars into the river and killed 13 people. But UB and Calspan are teaming up for an unprecedented project that could help protect the nation's crumbling bridges.
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How do you safely find out what technologies work best on bridges to withstand earthquakes, and brutal, extreme weather conditions? UB and Calspan say you have to build two bridges to nowhere.
The university's MCeer program and the engineering leader are partnering to do just that. They are building two, full-scale single span bridges this fall at Calspan's Ashford facility near Springville. The bridges will be equipped with isolated rubber bearing systems developed partly at MCEER. MCeer Director Andre Filliatrault said now they get to see if they work in real conditions.
The five-year long test will approximate wear and tear on bridges over a 25-year period. That is about how much life most of the nation's bridges have left. Officials said the data collected could change building codes for future bridge construction.
Calspan President Thomas Pleban said they hope other manufacturers also will want to use the site to test and improve their own systems, making Western New York a "destination" for research of this kind.
He said additional partnerships could bring in extra revenue for the estimated three quarters of a million dollar project. It's being funded through donations and grants, as well as with labor supplied by UB and Calspan.