Home Home Home

Bridge Visit

June 13, 2010

Two UMTRI staff members took a firsthand look at the structural design of Michigan's Zilwaukee Bridge recently. The visit is part of a $19 million infrastructure monitoring project funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology with support from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In the five-year project, led by Jerome Lynch, associate professor in the University of Michigan (U-M) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a group of U-M researchers is helping to develop and test a comprehensive bridge monitoring system. The system employs a suite of sensors to detect cracks, corrosion, and other signs of structural weakness.

The project is also measuring the effects of heavy trucks on bridges by using sensors mounted directly on a test vehicle. Research professor Tim Gordon (pictured right), head of UMTRI's Vehicle Systems and Control Group, leads this aspect of the project. UMTRI team members also include Todd Anuskiewicz (pictured left), Steve Karamihas, Mark Gilbert, and Krithika Srinivasan.

Using a carefully instrumented truck, the varying load and bridge response signals can be combined to give new and important measurements of the bridge's structural performance, Gordon explained. Since the truck can be driven at highway speeds, there is no need to close lanes, and the method can be developed to provide a widely used low-cost inspection method. Measuring how vehicles, especially heavy trucks, affect bridges provides critical information that could help predict the structure's health and safe operational lifetime.

The current bridge-inspection process relies on periodic visits by inspectors who physically examine individual components to determine structural health. The monitoring project will improve upon this process by collecting data on the entire bridge as an integrated structure. Multiple types of sensors will contribute to gathering structural data. Other parts of the system will organize and transmit the data from the sensors to the bridge inspector.

In all, the project involves fourteen researchers from the College of Engineering and UMTRI, as well as engineers from five private firms in New York, California, and Michigan.

In related, federally-funded projects, researchers from Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University are also conducting advanced monitoring of critical infrastructure components.

Photo: UMTRI business development manager Todd Anuskiewicz and research professor Tim Gordon visit the Zilwaukee Bridge. Photo by Mohammed Ettouney, Weidlinger Associates.