Why Bridges Get Icy Before Roads


New York winters can be trying. Those of us who live in the Empire State contend with freezing temperatures, snowstorms, ice accumulations, and more.

After a significant snowfall, sleet, or ice storm, you’ve probably heard weather forecasters caution drivers of icy bridges. If you’ve ever wondered why bridges get icy before roads, read on.

One reason bridges freeze first is because bridges are more exposed to freezing air temperatures. Cold air exists both above and below the bridge. This assault of freezing temperatures from every angle contributes to surface freezing. While roads also contend with cold air above the surface, the earth beneath roads is better able to retain heat.

Another reason is that bridges are usually made of steel and concrete, which are materials that conduct heat. As such, any heat on the bridge is brought to the surface and quickly dissipates when it is exposed to freezing air. Roads, however, are generally made of asphalt, which does not conduct heat well. Therefore, the heat on the road stays trapped below the surface for much longer. This helps prevent, or at least slow down, surface freezing.

However, heated bridges may be in our future. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has researched and released a report on “Heated Bridge Technology”. Perhaps increased funding for bridge infrastructure projects could eventually make heated bridges a reality in New York.

Until then, remember to slow down and exercise caution when driving over bridges in freezing weather.

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 2019, 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 ‘Design and Construction of Emergency Repairs, 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.

Rehabilitation of 7 Bridges in the Vicinity of the Van Wyck Expressway and Queens Boulevard

KC provided construction inspection services during the construction of Manton Street over Queens Boulevard deck replacement, Queens Boulevard over Main Street deck replacement, Queens Boulevard over Van Wyck Expressway deck replacement, Van Wyck Expressway over Main Street superstructure replacement, Hoover Avenue over Van Wyck Expressway painting, Van Wyck Expressway ramp over Van Wyck Expressway painting, and 82nd Avenue pedestrian bridge over Van Wyck Expressway painting.

Work also included new fixed and expansion bearings, new deck joints and reconstruction of abutments and piers, removal and replacement of the 86th Avenue pedestrian bridge, and construction of a weaving lane along the Northbound Van Wyck Expressway mainline between Hillside Avenue and Main Street.

Services performed included detailed inspections, onsite field testing of materials, field measurements and collection of data necessary to submit monthly and final estimates and progress reports, and preparation of record plans. All records were kept in accordance with the Manual of Uniform Record Keeping (MURK).

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.


The Tappan Zee Bridge Project

As part of the design team for the Tappan Zee Bridge design-build project, KC provided design support services for this project including on the bridge approach, approach roadways, new maintenance access ramps connecting the Thruway mainline and River Road in Rockland County, associated adjustments to River Road, on- and off-ramp adjustments at Interchange 9, retaining walls and noise walls, drainage systems, stormwater treatment systems, signing and pavement markings, lighting, erosion control, slope stabilization and stormwater pollution prevention, and maintenance and protection of traffic.

KC provided design and construction support services.