Infrastructure Week, Day 1: Bridges

How do we resolve a problem as widespread as nationally deficient bridge infrastructure?

Year after year, America’s deteriorating infrastructure is so critically neglected that now, in 2020, we face a multi-billion-dollar backlog for the rehabilitation of bridges, a vital facet of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

While the number of structurally deficient bridges in the United States is down significantly from years past, according to an Infrastructure Report Card provided by the American Society of Civil Engineers, around 188 million trips are taken every day across these deficient bridges. Rehabilitation needs for bridges are backlogged as much as $123 billion, an investment of over half of the funding already provided. These high repair and rehabilitation costs pose a nationwide challenge to state transportation agencies pursuing the construction of reliable infrastructure.

At KC Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. (KC), structural engineering remains an integral part of our corporation’s contribution to providing safe, sufficient bridge infrastructure.

With projects like Region 8 Ulster County Design-Build Bridge Replacements, Park Avenue Viaduct at 118th Street, Replacement of Route 59 Bridge over MNRR, and Greenkill Avenue Bridge Replacement, KC is continuously able to provide survey services, design assessment, and structural analysis for the replacement and rehabilitation of damaged, deficient, and extremely vital bridge infrastructure in various counties of New York State.

Washingtonville Culvert and Drainage Improvements Project

The project scope included replacement of the undersized culvert under State Route 94 in Washingtonville, which was located directly east of the Ahern Boulevard and State Route 94 intersection.

KC was responsible for providing architectural and engineering design, bid phase, and construction administration and support services. The scope of work included field and right-of-way (ROW) surveying and base mapping, preparation of highway and bridge design packages, and project management for preparation of contract documents. KC also provided engineering consulting services, working with the Town and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to obtain the required permits.

During the construction phase of the project, KC provided construction inspection services to ensure contract compliance, design intent, quality of workmanship, and material acceptance. KC also prepared as-built drawings.

The Widening of the Van Wyck Expressway Project

The Van Wyck Expressway (VWE), I-678, is the major gateway into and out of JFK International Airport. It was originally constructed in the early 1950s and is unable to handle current and projected traffic volumes. Congestion and delays are extensive and exist for many hours of the day. This project will widen the VWE by adding a fourth lane (fifth lane at some locations) in both directions to reduce congestion and delays. The added lanes will be operated as Managed Use Lanes that can be dynamically managed.

In addition, operations of the various on/off ramps will be evaluated and elimination and/or relocation will be considered. This project scope included preliminary design services to widen the VWE (I-678) to add a fourth lane from the Kew Gardens Interchange to JFK Airport. The scope also included evaluation of the proposed project on 20 bridges including 4 bridges that carry the Long Island Railroad over the VWE. In addition, operations of the various on/off ramps were evaluated. The length of the project was approximately 4.3 miles.

The bridges and interchanges within the project limits were investigated to determine appropriate work to accommodate the widened VWE. The proper environmental issues were investigated and documented.

KC, as part of the design team, was responsible for the accident analysis, utility relocation, and preliminary design of five structures that are part of the VWE and Belt Parkway Interchange.

Reaching out to Canada: The Gordie Howe International Bridge Project

Photo courtesy of Bridging North America and Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority

The Gordie Howe International Bridge Project, which will connect Canada to the United States over the Detroit River, is officially underway as of July 17, 2018.

U.S. and Canadian officials broke ground in the Delray area of Detroit to symbolize moving forward with the project, which has been the target of political strife over the past few years. The 1.5 mile, 6-lane span, with an included pedestrian/bike lane adjacent to the shoulder, is expected to cost nearly $4 billion and be completed by 2022 or 2023, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. Additionally, with the current design specifications, it will be the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America.

While many Canadian and American dignitaries are thrilled to begin construction, the victory was hard-fought and is still not wholly accepted. The Moroun family, owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge which “currently handles 60 to 70 percent of truck traffic across the Detroit River,” have been fighting the project since its naissance any way they can: by appealing to President Trump via television commercials; attempting to inject the bridge into NAFTA negotiations; and trying to prevent the Michigan Department of Transportation from using eminent domain to wipe out Detroit neighborhoods.

Their aversion to the project comes from a proposed outcome: with the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the Canadian Government have stipulated that the Ambassador Bridge will need to be torn down. “People can all make up stuff…but that bridge is going to be built,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told Crain’s Detroit Business. “I’ve never been anti Ambassador Bridge. I’m pro Gordie Howe Bridge.”

Officials from the U.S. and Canada agree that the bridge will bring great opportunities to both sides of the border by accelerating trade and the flow of goods, creating more jobs, and strengthening relations between nations. Construction is expected to begin in the fall.


Bridging a Gap and Naming it Too

If you’ve ever had to commute across a river, it’s likely that you’ve become familiar with traveling over bridges (unless you’re Walt Whitman, who takes the ferry) – but would you be able to identify what types of bridges you’ve crossed, other than by their names? Here’s a list (compiled by of some of the more popular types of bridges and how to identify them by their structures:

Arch bridges, as their name suggests, use an arch underneath the bridge deck to support the brunt of the tension. Mid-span piers help support the arches, as do a series of abutments and pillars that are built strong to carry the weight of the entire bridge. Arch bridges are fixed and unable to move, but they can support any traffic, ranging from pedestrians to water-carrying aqueducts.

Beam bridges are simplistic, connecting the deck between abutments, and are occasionally outfitted with structural piers. The distribution of force for beam bridges moves from vertical force into shear and flexural load that is then transferred to the abutments or piers. This form of bridge is the oldest known to man, originating as wooden logs dropped over ditches and creeks.

Cable-Stayed bridges use deck cables that are connected to vertical pylons erected near abutments or the middle of the span of the bridge. They are similar to suspension bridges with the use of cables, except they connect to pylons in one of two ways: the harp design, where each cable is attached to a different point of the pylon, much like the strings of a harp, or the fan design, where all cables connect to one point at the top of the pylon. They can support almost all traffic, save for heavy rail.

Cantilever bridges appear as a hybrid of an arch bridge, supporting their loads through a diagonal bracing with horizontal beams supported on one end. Most cantilever bridges use a pair of continuous spans placed between two piers, with beams meeting at the center. Some cantilever bridges also use mid-bridge piers as their foundation, allowing them to span in both directions towards other piers and abutments. Unable to span large distances, cantilever bridges will often use multiple beams coming out of each abutment or multiple center piers.

Suspension bridges use cables from vertical suspenders to hold the weight of the deck. They are a popular choice of bridge because of their ability to support weight over a large span, but they also are vulnerable to wind and vibrations due to their relatively unfixed structure, save for any abutments or piers.

Tied arch bridges are similar to arch bridges, except their arches are on top of the bridge deck and are used to transfer the weight of the bridge to the top cord, which is connected to the bottom cords of the bridge foundation.

Truss bridges use a diagonal mesh of triangle-shaped posts above the bridge deck to distribute forces across the structure. Although an individual beam from the bridge can endure dynamic forces of tension and compression, the presence of multiple beams allows the bridge to handle much stronger forces by distributing the load across the entire structure. Truss bridges are typically separated into king and queen posts, depending on if the two diagonal posts are supported by a single vertical post (king) or by two vertical posts and an additional horizontal post (queen).