28 Jul 11
Bridge demolition set to reveal clues about 'fracture-critical' spans
A civil engineer at Purdue University in the USA is taking advantage of the demolition of a bridge spanning the Ohio River to learn more about collapse in efforts to reduce the annual cost of inspecting large spans.
"We are looking at 'after-fracture redundancy,' or whether a bridge does remain standing after a key element fails," associate professor of civil engineering Robert Connor. "There is a lot of interest now in this issue because bridges classified as fracture-critical are very expensive to inspect and are subjected to more rigorous inspection requirements that are somewhat arbitrary. However, as is well known, bridge owners have limited resources. But if we could show they have redundancy, that a bridge won't collapse, more rational inspection strategies could be developed, allowing resources to be placed on the bridges that really should be inspected."
To test his hypothesis, Connor will purposely damage a 30m approach span leading to the Milton-Madison Bridge in southern Indiana. The 82-year-old bridge is being demolished in stages and a replacement bridge is scheduled for completion in 2012.