A Sustainable Composite Bridge Story
Composite bridge systems are revolutionizing the way bridges are constructed across the country. Composites are the melding of two or more materials like fiberglass, wood and fiber to create stronger, lighter and longer-lasting components to replace traditional materials like steel and concrete. And for a variety of reasons, composites are proving to have numerous advantages over the way we used to build or replace bridges.
You can find out why in a new video (we call it an “info-doc”) featuring AIT Bridges, a division of Advanced Infrastructure Technologies of Brewer, Maine. AIT Bridges is the leading producer of innovative composite bridge solutions and they’re growing fast.
Most recently, the company delivered the first composite arch bridge system to the West Coast, on SR 203 in Duvall, Washington. As you’ll see in the info-doc, the bridge is comprised of 12 fiberglass composite arches manufactured at AIT’s Brewer facility, and its construction marks several milestones. The bridge’s arches span 51-feet and were cut in half to facilitate cross-country shipping. The bridge required no transportation permits due to its ability to be cut and then easily reassembled on site.
But ease of transportation is just one of the many advantages of composite bridge systems. Because the components are so much lighter than traditional materials, there is no need for large, heavy cranes to install the bridge components. Why is that important?
Because most contractors don’t own large cranes and leasing them is often prohibitive for many smaller contractors. So, without the need for the big cranes, more contractors can bid on construction projects, which helps lower the overall cost of bridge construction. That’s good news for everyone, especially for taxpayers since most bridge projects are publicly financed. And as the Maine DOT official says in the info-doc, there aren’t any state DOTs that have all the money they need, and there are so many bridges in the country that are structurally deficient (nearly 50,000 at last count) and need to be repaired or replaced.
Sustainability is another major – and important – advantage of composite bridge systems. “Sustainability in construction is becoming a policy prerequisite,” says Greg Nadeau, chairman of Infrastructure Ventures and an AIT board member. “If you can build a bridge that’ll last over 100 years, and you can do that in a competitive, price-effective manner, it makes economic sense, it makes environmental sense, and it makes operational sense.”
Unlike traditional steel and concrete bridges, composite bridge systems don’t corrode. They use a fifth the amount of concrete than traditional bridges, and making concrete is one of the most energy-intensive processes in construction. So on that score alone, composite bridge systems have the old way of doing things beat, hands down.
Take a few minutes to watch our info-doc and see this new innovative technology in action. You’re sure to be impressed.