A Conversation with Dale Mortensen, with Washington Rock Quarries

Dale Mortensen, National Sales Director with Armorstone

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

US industries are facing issues related to widespread worker shortage, material scarcity and supply chain delays. The bridge preservation industry also finds itself facing many of these same challenges.

To better understand the intricacies of these challenges, I spoke with Dale Mortensen, National Sales Director with Washington Rock Quarries, Inc., a company that has been involved with bridge preservation for over 10 years. Among the other products that they sell, Washington Rock supplies Armorstone, an aggregate that enhances friction surface for bridge deck overlays and road surfacing installations.

Dale runs the Armorstone division for Washington Rock Quarries and is responsible for all 50 US States. Dale, who graduated in 1999 with a business degree in Marketing from Utah State University, is fond of golf, mountain biking and the outdoors, an experience that he shares with his wife and five children.

At a recent TSP2 monthly conference call for the Western Bridge Preservation Partnership you spoke of the global supply crisis that has been affecting bridge deck overlay projects. Is this crisis also affecting the Armorstone products? Is it related to a particular type of aggregate, such as the bauxite? Or is the issue more complex?

It is definitively a more complex issue than the cost of the bauxite aggregate itself. During the call I said that there is a major transportation crisis in the aggregate industry. The cost for freight, both truck and rail, has increased so much that the price for aggregate has become secondary. Even if my company was able to keep the same price as last year for the products that I promote, contractors would still pay up to three times as much because of the increase in shipping costs. There are several reasons for this increase. The biggest one entails trucking. There is definitively a shortage of truck drivers. From what we were told by the trucking industry, in the last year and half over 100,000 truck drivers have either retired or left the industry. At first many truckers didn’t have enough work because of the COVID pandemic. As a result, they stopped working and got paid through unemployment. Now that the economy has reopened, many drivers have not come back to work. The shortage of truck drivers combined with the high demand for materials that we are experiencing post-COVID has brought trucking costs way up.

Shipping cost increase is not limited to trucking though. Since trucking is so congested, many companies have turned from trucks to rail thus making rail shipping also congested. Railways typically have their busy seasons between September and January, which is the time between the holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are telling us that they have as much business now as during the busy season and consequently, prices have soared. The bottom line is that our customers are calling us and asking why a transportation price quoted, for example, at $2,000 six months ago, is now doubled to $4,000.

Can you make an example of shipping cost increase related to your products?

We primarily use trucks for shipping in the West. We hardly ever ship anything other than full truckloads since shipping a partial load and a full load is about the same cost. As an example, last year we were quoted about $2,400 freight cost for shipping a full truckload of approximately 22,000 lbs. of aggregate material from Washington State to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year we’re getting prices of approximately $4,700 for the same amount of material, route, and delivery location.

When we ship by rail, we use a rail car, which carries approximately 21 tons.  The price for rail cars has also increased substantially. We are seeing a transportation cost of $3,000 that we were quoted last year raised to $4,500 this year. Just as an example, the cost from Washington to Indiana, where we ship quite a lot of material, has gone from $3,200 last year to $4,700 this year.

How are your customers, the contractors, reacting to this cost increase?

I participated in the TSP2 call to respond to a request from one of my customers, a contractor, who wanted me to speak with the DOTs. Contractors are asking the DOTs to allow for a change order based on increased transportation costs. This will allow them to keep projects going. If the DOTs refuse to accept a cost readjustment and they want contractors to stick to the original contract price, contractors can end up losing money for bridge deck overlay and road projects because of shipping costs. Nobody could have foreseen this situation.

Is price increase also affecting international shipping?

Certainly, the shipping crisis is global. It is well known that the worldwide COVID pandemic has created the set of circumstances our industry is currently facing. Because of the pandemic many factories in China either shut down or drastically reduced their productivity, from 100% to as low as 20%. When running at 20%, these companies weren’t exporting as much, which reduced US market availability of many materials used in the construction industry. Moreover, the pandemic created a worldwide shortage of shipping containers. At first, China started exporting a large quantity of products related to protection from COVID, such as cleaning supplies, masks, and gloves. China shipped containers filled with these products all over the world, including countries where they had never shipped to on a regular basis, such as Australia, Panama, and New Zealand. The fact that these countries have limited export along with the need for ships to return to China quickly in order to deliver COVID protective equipment to other parts of the world, resulted in many containers staying in these countries and not returning to China. The bottom line is that we are experiencing a massive shortage of containers globally. As of now, there are simply not enough containers to ship to places.

Has this global shortage of containers affected your business?

It affected Washington Rock Quarries greatly. We weren’t able to get by container one of our key products, the bauxite, an aggregate that we don’t manufacture but we purchase from China. Due to the shortage of containers, the cost for shipping bauxite from China to the Port of Tacoma more than tripled. This has priced us out of the market.

In order find a different way to ship the bauxite, we ended up moving materials via barge. Unfortunately, the Port of Tacoma, where we normally import our bauxite to, doesn’t allow for barges to unload there. We had to ship to another state which resulted in more steps and increased costs. We want to get back to shipping to Washington via containers ASAP. However, we do not think this will be an option until late 2021

Due to the increased cost to move material by trucks and railway cars, in addition to the shortage of containers, you have been forced to increase the price of your materials to contractors. How are contractors reacting to the price increase?

As I mentioned earlier, contractors are asking the DOTs to revise costs of the projects that were bid prior to the pandemic. If prices are not revised, contractors are running the risk of losing money with these projects. When DOTs ask contractors to hold to their original quote, then contractors are coming back to us asking to cut prices. Unfortunately, we do not have enough wiggle room in our margins to make up the difference for these increased freight prices. As a matter of fact, we would prefer not to be involved with the shipping business altogether. We only provide transportation as a service to our customers.

Are you expecting the shipping crisis to end any time soon?

With the pandemic slowing down in certain parts of the world, the business is coming back very fast. A lot of material is currently being shipped from China and Taiwan. However, I do not see the recovery of the shipping side of the business coming back as fast. The large amount of materials that are being manufactured is actually worsening the shipping crisis. It is causing a huge backlog. There are not enough containers, or truck drivers, or railway cars to move materials.

An article published by the New York Times states that that we may end up experiencing some of these difficulties all the way into 2023 before seeing a correction in the market.

If this is true, what should manufacturers and contractors do to stay in business for 2 years with limited or no profit?

Looking forward to next year contractors will have to bid with the idea that costs could be much higher than they are now. Both manufacturers and contractors will have to include uncertainty into their price.

Concerning bridge deck overlay projects, this uncertainty is not limited to the aggregate that we supply but includes all the other components, such as equipment, supplies, parts and epoxy. It is an all-encompassing problem that affects all suppliers for bridge deck overlays, who provide materials and equipment.

Let me underscore that this current crisis is not limited to bridge deck overlays and the bridge preservation industry. There’s a shortage in almost every industry right now. It is even difficult to buy a new car since manufacturers are having problems getting computer chips. And this is just one of the many examples I can give.





From the New York Times:


A Conversation with Drew Storey, Account Executive at The Kercher Group

Drew and his family at a football game supporting Purdue

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Drew Storey has such an outgoing personality and extensive knowledge of many aspects of bridge preservation that speaking with him has always been a pleasant and instructive experience for me. I had the opportunity to talk again with Drew a few days ago for the TSP2 Bridge Preservation Blog. My conversation with him marks the restarting of my collaboration with TSP2 after almost one year of hiatus from the Blog.

Drew as a unique, multi-faceted perspective of bridge preservation that stems from a unique experience. After working over 10 years for Indiana DOT focusing on bridge preservation and maintenance, he then moved to the private sector, where he got a position as Account Executive for Bridges and Structures at The Kercher Group, a company specialized in infrastructure asset management. In parallel to this professional activity, he has been serving for several years as Council Member with City of Seymour in Indiana, where he lives. In this position he has been dealing with infrastructure plans and budget.

Could you speak of the motivations that are behind your professional career? What are the pivotal moments in your career path?

I did enjoy my time serving Indiana DOT. I worked under some very bright and motivating individuals, who gave me more than I bargained for and just enough rope to be dangerous. Their leeway allowed me to explore, develop, and innovate many state-of-the-art practices for bridge maintenance, preservation, and asset management. It wasn’t always easy though. Being the young underdog sometimes I failed, but, luckily, most of the times, I “failed forward”, as one of my supervisors used to say. This means that each time I failed I learned something new. Now I am able to reflect on those experiences and use them to make better decisions in my current position with The Kercher Group.

Just about 6 months after leaving Indiana DOT, I started to realize that my job with the DOT filled my cup with the sense of being a public servant. I guess I took it for granted that the work I was doing had an impact on so many people. I wanted to continue to serve the community. I joined a few non-profit organizations, began serving in my church in a much larger capacity, and later I decided to run for a City Council office in my hometown.

When I joined The Kercher Group two years ago, I was really excited with the opportunity to gain a different perspective on bridge preservation, to learn from this new experience, and to bring my knowledge to the table. I now frequently sit in meetings with customers that have never tackled the preservation work. I can take advantage of my past experience with Indiana DOT, lean back to it, and share my preservation expertise with them. I also bring to the table my typical work attitude, which is to get things done and not to fear trying new solutions.

Can you make an example of an innovative solution that you tried when you were working for Indiana DOT?

We were having a real hard time finding contractors that were willing, or even able, to remove drift piles. I had reached out to the preservation network and found out that up in the north-east they were using small floating rigs for this purpose. They put rigs in the water and sent out guys to pull out the drift. This solution however could not be applied to our region, where our big rivers have swift waters. It was simply something we could not do.

Then I learned that in the state of Louisiana they used cranes in order to remove the drift. I liked the idea of using a crane, but I needed something that was way more mobile than traditional cranes. So, I reached out to my colleagues that work on roadways, not necessarily on bridges. They were using wrecker companies with really large crane wreckers for installs of pipes, end sections, and even wall repairs. We came up with a way to procure their services for bridges, defined a plan of actions, and also partnered with Purdue University in order to capture time-lapse videos of how this was going to work.

We tested this solution in the field. We closed a bridge lane for a couple of hours, brought the crane wrecker in and removed a few logs. It worked really well. It was a good solution to the driftwood problem for Indiana DOT. And it was also good business for the wrecker companies that got new work that was outside of their traditional contract scope.

Wrecker companies were used to working on the highway, setting up in precarious situations and having to move very quickly. Their expertise matched our bridge needs of driftwood removal. This is an example of thinking out the box that allowed Indiana DOT to find a solution that was innovative, effective and safe.

Use of a Crane Wrecker to Remove Driift Logs

Earlier on you spoke of yourself at Indiana DOT as underdog. Why?

I mentioned being an underdog because I am not a professional engineer. I really had to climb the ladder. I recall being called out on jobs or into meetings, where oftentimes I was the only person that was not a licensed engineer. However, many times I was the guy they looked up to in order to get answers to problems.

I’m not here to say that you shouldn’t be licensed to be in bridge preservation and to do the work that we do. I am just saying that it is not necessary to have that license to be a good preservation practitioner.

You are a passionate supporter of bridge preservation. You have been involved with TSP2 bridge preservation from its beginning throughout the different steps of your career. How has bridge preservation evolved during the last 10 years?

I must say it has been such a thrill to see bridge preservation move from being a new, innovative idea to a mainstream component of any asset management plan.

When I started following the Midwest Bridge Preservation Partnership, expert people, who were long in the tooth, were pushing a new effort toward bridge preservation. Today those folks are some of my most trusted advisors. I am happy to be one of those that continue supporting this effort, which has started showing significant progress.

Before TSP2 it was very difficult for me at Indiana DOT to find trusted advisors who could share their experience about using a product or a technology. This kind of service simply wasn’t available to me. After the Partnership I was able to count on a network of people who could support me from both the DOT and the industry side.

I must say that industry partners have embraced TSP2 bridge preservation and done such a nice job of retooling and providing enhanced access to training, guidance, and specifications, which make it easier for Agencies to spin up very quickly.

Industry partners are also a key part of TSP2 effort to reach out to Local Agencies, such as Cities, Counties and Municipalities. Through the Local Agency Outreach Committee, TSP2 is speaking to Local Agencies all across the country, underscoring the value of preservation and helping them make progress toward preservation. Ten years ago, we would have never dreamt that we would reach out to Local Agencies and find them so receptive and willing to move into preservation as quickly.

How has your perspective of bridge preservation changed from being a bridge preservation insider working for Indiana DOT to being involved with The Kercher Group?

This is a tough one to answer. I do not think that my perspective on bridge preservation has dramatically changed since I started working for The Kercher Group. I strive to continue seeing things through the lens of the Agencies and the eyes of the people who are closest to the struggle, since I believe these people make the best decisions. I put my old Indiana DOT hardhat on, you know the one with all the scratches, every time I can and I work to be a part of the client’s preservation team.

My role at The Kercher Group is to provide guidance to my clients, which is much like the role I served at Indiana DOT, where Districts and field staff leaned on me to get guidance or direction related to bridge maintenance and preservation issues.

My role is also to be a trusted advisor for the clients of The Kercher Group. In this role I help them develop skills that allows clients to manage problems on their own. I can say that I make a really good splash with an Agency when I teach their people to “fish on their own”. Here is where I feel as if my perspective may have changed slightly. From providing guidance at Indiana DOT, with The Kercher Group I have become a trusted advisor that helps Agencies develop new skills.

As I said before, I believe the best decisions are made by the people that are closest to the work. In Lean Six Sigma, we would call that “connecting with gemba”, “gemba” means “the place where value is created”. It is proved that these people can make the best decisions on how to solve problems in a long-lasting way.

What is your outlook of bridge preservation as a City Council Representative? From what I know, the Council deals with major projects and infrastructure improvements.

First, I would like to step away from focusing on bridges for a moment. Although my initial exposure to preservation was in bridges and culverts, I was able to expand my area of interest within Indiana DOT. With each promotion I got exposure to new types of assets, where true preservation practices were needed.

I like to find the root causes of problems by applying the “The 5 Whys” methodology. This is one of my favorite exercises. Most frequently, at the end of “The 5 Whys” analysis, it boils down to the fact that the owner does not have a good asset management plan.

While preservation at Indiana DOT has come a long way since when I was employed there, Local Agencies, like the City of Seymour, have struggled to put effective strategic preservation plans into place. Oftentimes, elected officials concentrate on major projects or on taking care of the worst ones first. People want to hear about these types of projects. Also, these projects make headlines which elected officials like to rally around. Unfortunately, preservation tends not to be all that headline worthy. At City of Seymour I try to reverse this trend and I do focus on changing culture. I help build and implement asset management plans that are dedicated to preservation, which is generally a very effective and sustainable practice. Being able to gear local policies toward effectiveness and sustainability is very rewarding for me as a public servant.

Based on your experience as a City Council Representative, is the general public aware of bridge preservation? If so, do they support bridge preservation policies?

I believe the general public hasn’t heard the word preservation enough to develop awareness. Neither people have seen their respective Local Agencies developing infrastructure policy around the preservation idea.

The general public has an expectation that Transportation Agencies will do the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time, and want to be informed about it. As a result, I am seeing more and more Agencies providing a constant flow of information through their favorite media outlets, such as newspapers and social media. These outlets can be used for some powerful, pointed messaging. Agencies should capture communication opportunities in order to promote preservation, for example by showcasing good case studies where the positive impact of preservation can be emphasized.

While it is not the only way, communication is certainly an essential mean for giving the general public the transparency into decision making practices that are based on the preservation principles.

In your opinion what are the major challenges that bridge preservation may face in the next 5 years?

I was speaking to a couple university faculty members recently about their perspective on preservation. They were quick to point out their support for preservation and how they consider asset management planning as an essential element in order to implement preservation strategies. However, they were just as quick to describe how they have not necessarily designed curriculum around the idea of “taking care of what you have”. Without a dedicated curriculum, knowledge and understanding of preservation can only come from the work experience itself, as it was for me when I was employed by Indiana DOT. I do not envision that younger generations will be well prepared to hit the ground running with preservation. Thinking otherwise may be optimistic.

At Kercher we take preservation education seriously. I always enjoy watching new staff members hear the stories of how preservation and asset management have moved communities forward. Their light bulb quickly lights up when they do realize they have a group of preservation practitioners that are willing to guide them.

Could you share something about your personal life? How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite hobby?

Like many fellow preservation practitioners, I must say that my wife and kids get their fair share of bridge background photos while on vacation. All joking aside, I spend a fair amount of time trying to make other people happy. I own a DJ business where my wife and I coordinate and entertain guests at wedding and reception events. It has been a real joy being a big part of bride’s and groom’s Big Day for more than 18 years. The folks we serve often have large crowds. I find it very enjoyable to bring a few hundred people together on a dance floor.

Folks that know me are never surprised that I am so comfortable being the master of ceremonies of these events, or when I tell them I have been voted the best DJ in our area for many years. Being in a small town has its perks. One is that there’s not much competition in the DJ world, which might result in being named the best.

Do you have any links that you would like to share with the?

Just a few plugs for some things I am passionate about:

1. The Kercher Group has been such a great firm to work for and has really given me the opportunity to make an impact in a big way to Agencies across the country.

2. AASHTO Bridge Preservation Partnership has recently deployed its own LinkedIn page. This will be one way of staying connected to some of the best practitioners in the Agencies and in the industry. I look forward to meeting more folks there.

Chasing Bubbles, a documentary about the journey and the spirit of Alex Rust – From IMDB

The documentary “Chasing Bubbles” (see YouTube) is an inspirational story of a great friend of mine. Alex Rust, who graduated from Purdue University School of Engineering, decided to live a much different life than most. My hope is that his story of sailing around the world will push viewers to chase their dreams and live life to the fullest.

The documentary is also a true preservation story. Alex made it through the hardest challenges focusing on taking care of the small problems when they were still small. He could not afford to tackle major problems alone while in open water out in the ocean. One can say that he truly applied preservation and maintenance practices to his boat. He truly kept his boat in a good state during the long sailing journey.

A Conversation with Tim Woolery, Vice-President of ACT

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

There is always something new to learn when you speak with Tim Woolery, the Vice-President of Advanced Chemical Technologies (ACT) (see LINK) out of Oklahoma City, OK.  Tim has an extensive knowledge of protective sealers, both in the Lab and in the field. He is also very familiar with bridge preservation having been an active and enthusiastic member of the TSP2 Bridge Preservation Partnership since its beginning.

Could you speak of your career that led you to be the Vice-President of ACT?

About 10 years ago, after spending 30 years with a wood coating company specializing in solvent-based finishes, I was ready to move on and do something that would be more fun.

It happened that Kevin Brown, the owner of ACT, asked me to come on board and join the company. I remember saying something like this to him: “I want to attend a trade show, and, if it looks fun, then we will talk about your proposal”. So, I went to the NEBPP TSP2 bridge preservation meeting in Newport, RI. It was my very first experience with the TSP2 Partnership. After I got there and worked the show, I realized how committed the attendees were to bridge preservation. I also recognized the value of contributing to the maintenance and restoration of our country’s infrastructure. Definitively, the bridge preservation business looked like a worthwhile venture, something I would really enjoy getting into. That’s kind of how it started, from participating in a TSP2 show 8 years ago.

I went from materials for the protection of wood to materials for the protection of concrete. However, the fact that I had to deal with a completely different substrate, chemistry-wise it was an easy transition for me.

Are you involved with the design of chemical formulations and with new product development at ACT?

Yes, I love working on Lab projects, then moving to the field for trials and finally to a saleable product. When I was in the wood coating business, I ran the Laboratory for 11 years, also doing new product development.

Working on the formulation of new, innovative materials for ACT is one of my pleasures.  We developed silanes with corrosion inhibitors and we have just completed a new silane product that provides both oil and water repellency.

This new product, which is designed for parking garages, protects concrete floors from stains caused by oil drippings. Cars are always leaking oil thereby making a garage floor look bad, as if it has never been cleaned. Owners want to be able to clean the oil off by power washing. The new water and oil repellent silane product from ACT makes it possible. Oil drippings bead up instead of soaking in and flattening out and therefore they can be easily removed.

What are your responsibilities as the Vice-President of ACT?

In addition to helping with the Laboratory, I am responsible for ACT Customer Service and Sales. We have 7 independent representatives to promote our products around the country.

What are your core values as a leader of ACT? And what expectations do you have for your employees?

I can summarize my values in three words: participation, education and fun.

I grew up professionally in the culture of an employee-owned company, where everybody acts like an owner and participates in the business. To do so, it is essential that employees have the proper education. In other words,  they must be equipped with information that can allow them to make good decisions. I do not want my employees to ask me what the right decision is for them to make. I want my employees to be educated so that they can take good decisions on their own. This is also essential for their personal and professional growth.

If you participate in the business and have the necessary tools, work should be fun. If work is not fun and if you cannot work with enthusiasm, it is better to quit and choose a different job.

I expect that my employees at ATC be dedicated, enthusiastic and passionate about the business. I do not want them to be reactive, just answer the phone, do quotes, etc. I want them to know why they are doing what they do, have a knowledge, be proactive and really participate. When I am travelling, I do not worry about my phone ringing all the time. I have a great team of people who is able to step in for me and take care of the customers.

ACT offers a number of silane-based sealers for the protection of concrete and masonry. What are your most successful products for bridge preservation?

In 1976 ACT was the first importer of silane sealers in the USA. The company has been in the silane business out of Oklahoma since 1977. It was in Oklahoma in 1977 that, for the first time in the USA, silane sealers were used to protect a concrete bridge.

After many years, we have added epoxies healer-sealers, overlay systems and corrosion inhibitors to the product line. However, silane remains the core and most successful product of ACT.

I understand that ACT’s product offer has moved from the 40% to the 100% solid formulation for silane sealers. Why?

The reason why 40% reactive sealers were formulated depended on the fact that silanes used to be super-expensive. In the late 70s it was not even conceivable to sell silanes for $100 per gallon. Reducing the concentration to 40% made silanes more affordable. Today, with more silane producers around the world, it is possible to get the 100% reactive formulation at a reasonable price.

What are the challenges that ACT has encountered in promoting its products for bridge preservation? Do you have any advice for overcoming these challenges?

Probably the main challenge we have encountered entails the process of approving products in the Qualified Product List (QPL) or Approved Product List (APL) of the Departments of Transportation (DOT). The management of this process is complex. It also varies from State to State since each DOT is organized differently from another.

The process can also be expensive. For example, in 2019 a DOT required the NCHRP 244 Northern Exposure test in order to keep our product in the Approved Listing. All the other States use the Southern Exposure test. Nobody had really run the Northern Exposure test. So, we had to run an additional test that costed $8,000. If for whatever reason, we had not passed that test, we would have needed to run it again thus doubling the cost.

The DOT approval process is definitively a major challenge. The other challenge entails dealing with silane specifications that have not been written clearly or are too vague.

My advice is simply to have patience. You must solve one problem at a time.

What about do you think of inviting people who are in charge of DOT approvals at TSP2 Bridge Preservation meetings?

It would be a good idea to invite the “Materials Division” engineers to the TSP2 meetings because ultimately these people decide which products can be used for bridge preservation.

Having the Material Division Engineers attending the breakout sessions together with Engineers form the Bridge Office and Bridge Maintenance Leadership would add great value to the conversations at TSP2 meetings.

In addition to bridge preservation, ACT is active in other sectors, such as parking garages and architecture.  Can you make a comparison between the challenges that you have encountered in these fields Vs bridge preservation?

Silane projects for parking garage floors are a sizeable part of our business. On the other hand, we are not overly strong in what we call the vertical architectural market. This is an area of opportunity that we are working on.

The use of a product in the DOT business is based on the approval of the product by the DOT and its inclusion in the QPL or APL, while in the parking garage and architectural business the product must be in the specifications. To do so, it is essential to pay a service, like MasterSpec, since architects download the specs from these portals. One cannot grow the business going to one architect at the time. It is too slow.

With parking garages, it is essential to be specified by consultants like Walker or Desman. If you can get them to put your product in the specs, then they send these specifications out to all their offices throughout the country. This is a good way to get business. Otherwise, as I said before, you have to be on those engines that the architects use for specs. If you are in, you have a chance to be specified. If you are not specified, it is really a hard time convincing a contractor to change the specifications.

How has the business changed for ACT during the recent months when we are copying with the COVID pandemic?

Not travelling has been the biggest change since the pandemic began. Typically, I travel two weeks every month, participating in conferences, training events, demonstrations and sales calls. So far this year I have not flown at all. However, I have driven to several states to work with county maintenance crews to help establish bridge preservation programs using silanes.

I also participated in my first Zoom presentation as a presenter for the International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) conference. Even though I prefer speaking to a “live” audience, it turned out well and I had an opportunity to answer questions.

You are a member of the Innovation Technology Demonstration (ITD) TSP2 National Working Group.  Could you speak of the value that ITD brings to bridge preservation?

I think the ITD program is a great concept.  It represents a faster way to get new and innovative products adopted by the Departments of Transportations (DOTs).

One of the challenges I see with this program is that the ITD process goes from industry to DOTs, while it should be the opposite. DOTs should call industry asking for innovative products and services that meet their needs. Industry should respond to this call. Otherwise industry runs the risk of developing innovative solutions for what they perceive as major problems, which, however, may not be a concern for the DOTs.

I am not sure that all DOTs quite understand the concept of ITD. To facilitate this understanding, there should be more DOT representatives in the ITD Working Group team. I also think that ITD presentations at the TSP2 Bridge Preservation meetings should be done by the DOTs involved with this program rather than by industry representatives. My concern is that ITD presentations can be perceived as “sales oriented” rather than presentations that focus on innovative “solutions” to DOT problems.

You have been participating in TSP2 Bridge Partnership meetings, both National and Regional, as a vendor for several years. Has ACT benefitted from your participation in these meetings and how?

It always boils down to people. When you come to these events you get to meet a number of bridge preservation people. You develop relationships that usually don’t happen across the desk at office meetings.  Even more important, you can gain the trust of the DOT people, who can appreciate your technical expertise, your willingness to participate in the meeting events and your commitment to bridge preservation.

I am a committed believer in the TSP2 program and in what this program is doing. I show my commitment by giving presentations, participating in the round tables and being available to share knowledge. Hopefully over the years people have come to recognize me as a resource to the bridge preservation community.

The participation in the TSP2 events has been truly beneficial to ACT’s growth. Before getting into this business, I did not know anything about bridges and what was done to maintain them. I have learned a lot and gotten a great education through the program.

Before getting into this business, I did not know anything about bridges and what was done to maintain them. I have learned a lot and gotten a great education through the program. TSP2 has been very valuable to me personally.

When TSP2 meetings are going to restart in 2021, what are your recommendations to vendors in order to take the maximum advantage from their participation?

I think that vendors who attend the TSP2 Bridge Preservation meetings and sit at their booth all the time do not understand the value of these meetings. My advice is for the vendors to be active participants, sit at the conference and learn about the problems that DOTs have and the solutions they adopt. It is also important to participate in round-table discussions, hearing conversations and questions. Otherwise one does not get to know DOT’s concerns and needs. In summary, vendors have to get out of the booth, participate in meetings, and be a potential resource for the solutions to problems.

When I present silane sealers at TSP2 meetings, I position myself as a resource for the bridge preservation community. I never mention the commercial names of ACT products. I do sell my products but I share my knowledge and experience with the silane technology. If the silane technology becomes more widely adopted, it will be good for everybody in the industry, including ACT. Rising tide lifts all boats.

Can you share something about your personal life? How do you do like spending your free time?

I live in Oklahoma, so hunting and fishing have always been my spare time passion. Big game hunting and upland bird hunting keep me busy during the fall and winter months. In the summer I can be found at Lake Eufaula fishing and dragging grandkids on skis behind a boat.



Advanced Chemical Technologies (ACT)

Bridge Preservation Training for Local Agencies

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

The Local Agency Outreach TSP2 Working Group has developed a new program, the Bridge Preservation Training for local Agencies, whose main points are reported in the “Low-Cost Maintenance to Save Bridges” flier. The flier, which is published on the TSP2 web site, can be found on the Local Agency Outreach Working Group page, following the link: “Local Agency Outreach Introduction White Paper.

The new program is in line with one of the strategic goals of TSP2 that entails extending the use of bridge preservation practices from DOTs to local Agencies, such as Cities, Counties and Municipalities. In order to learn more about the program, I spoke with Gregg Freeman, Director of Business Development with Kwik Bond Polymers and chair of the Working Group, and with Travis Kinney, Major Bridge Maintenance Engineer with Oregon DOT, co-chair of the Working Group, and project leader. I also contacted Pat Conner with Indiana LTAP for information concerning this State.

How was this new program formulated?

Travis Kinney, Major Bridge Maintenance Engineer with Oregon DOT

Travis Kinney – The TSP2 Partnership recognized that the local Agencies did not have enough presence and influence in the Bridge Preservation Partnership group. I do not mean to say that there are not active members from local Agencies in TSP2, but their number and their level of influence is not proportional to the amount of bridge inventory they manage. As a consequence, a TSP2 Working Group was developed to look at ways to improve the outreach to local bridge owners with the goal to educate them about the benefits of preservation practices. Setting up a bridge maintenance training for local Agencies was an idea that spawned naturally out of this effort.

The Local Agency Outreach Working Group has progressed to include great participation from a wide range of local Agencies. This participation has helped the group in many respects including the design of ways to advertise training opportunities. These encompass advertising the activity of the Working Group in the National Local Technical Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA) (see LINKS) newsletters, the creation of a flier, and even a poster-board to be displayed at the national LTAP conference, which unfortunately was canceled because of COVID-19.

What is the purpose of the program?

Gregg Freeman, Director of Business Development with Kwik Bond Polymers

Gregg Freeman – We aim to educate local Agency managers on the benefits of preservation versus replacement of bridges. Preservation is a proven methodology that saves taxpayers’ money over the long term.  At this point, there isn’t nearly enough money available to replace bridges that are in “poor” condition.  Preservation is the only methodology to be considered in order to close the gap.

What are the key elements of the program?

Gregg Freeman – A strict collaboration with LTAP people is essential in order to implement our process of soliciting local Agencies to adopt bridge preservation practices. We thought that a simple and effective way to initiate this collaboration was to create a non-proprietary presentation, titled “Bridge Preservation For Local Agencies”.

This presentation, which was the first output of our TSP2 Working Group, is intended to be given as part of the “Lunch & Learn” LTAP training program throughout the US. The intent of the presentation is to underscore the importance of a pro-active bridge preservation approach, summarized in the “Keep Good Bridges Good” mantra, as opposed to a reactive “Worst First” methodology that should not be the focal point of any asset management plan.

Travis Kinney – The Working Group is now focused on identifying barriers that prevent obtaining funds for preservation at local levels. As a result of this effort, the group identified that federal funds are rarely used at local levels for preservation activities. Replacement and major rehabilitation tend to be favored in existing projects’ selection processes. In addition, state funding tends to favor the “Worst-First” approach.

Another key initiative of the Working Group that has just started entails the review of asset management plans by local Agencies in order to determine whether they create a framework that favors replacement instead of preservation practices.

Who is the target audience of the “Bridge Preservation For Local Agencies” presentation?

Gregg Freeman – It is a large target audience. It includes Cities, Counties, Municipalities, Tribal Agencies and every group involved with educating local Agencies, such as LTAP, NACE, FHWA, State DOT’s and AASHTO.

Has this presentation already been given?

Travis Kinney – The presentation is ready to be given and is being advertised through the NLTAPA Working Group members.  In April of this year, I gave a trial run of the presentation virtually to over 30 LTAP representatives. The presentation was well received and the Working Group has gained interest in setting up virtual training opportunities.

Can you tell me more about the issue concerning access to federal funds?

Travis Kinney – As I mentioned earlier, how to get access to federal funds for preservation is a point of key interest for local Agencies.

We had reached out to our contacts at TSP2 for good examples of funding for local Agencies, specifically for preservation. When they told us that they had a hard time finding these examples, we started working with the Bridge Preservation Expert Task Group (BPETG) from FHWA (see LINKS) so as to establish a study, or a survey, that can be valid on the national scale. This is being framed out.  The key question that we would like to have answered through the collaboration with BPETG entails barriers for getting funds down from federal to local level for preservation.  The best funding example we have found so far entails the state of Indiana, which has done a great job of promoting preservation at the local level.

Pat Conner, LTAP Research Manager with Purdue University

Pat Conner – The Indiana transportation funding system encourages preservation through different avenues, such as the use of revenue from the gas tax that is distributed to locals, a new state funded matching grant fund, and obviously locally generated funds. The Indiana model is however difficult to duplicate in other states because most of the funds used for preservation are funded locally or from state generated funding. In Indiana federal funding is not currently being utilized for preservation.

Indiana has the Motor Vehicle Highway Account, which is heavily funded through gas and diesel taxes. Local Agencies are required to spend at least 50% of this account toward construction, reconstruction, and preservation. Indiana also has a matching grant fund for local Agencies that is funded through vehicle registrations and a portion of the gas tax. In order to get access to this fund, local Agencies are required to have an asset management plan in place. Between the funding availability for preservation, the asset management requirements, and the training being provided for asset management by LTAP, Indiana is the forefront of creating a culture that encourages local Agencies to re-look at their project priorities and preferred practices.

Gregg Freeman – In some cases, bridge preservation is still being confused with major rehabilitation and replacement. One of the first examples of federal funding for local Agencies we received from FHWA was under the banner of bridge preservation but it actually involved major rehabilitation and replacement. It did not entail preservation, as it is defined by AASHTO TSP2 as “actions or strategies that prevent, delay or reduce deterioration of bridges or bridge elements, restore the function of existing bridges, keep bridges in good condition and extend their life”.

Could you share details about the current state of the program’s implementation?

Gregg Freeman –  Travis gave a webinar organized by the National LTAP that was attended by 30 people. I had the opportunity to give a preliminary version of the “Bridge Preservation For Local Agencies” presentation at the annual county bridge conference organized by Indiana LTAP at Purdue University on October 29 and 30, 2019. I was invited by Pat Conner, who has been instrumental in creating such a good training program for local Agencies in Indiana.

Travis Kinney – We have had tremendous support for doing more in-person presentations. North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois had all reached out to our Working Group because of their interest in the program. This was in early March. Since then in-person training has been put on hold due to the COVID restrictions. We are now shifting gears and looking at virtual training opportunities to sustain the Working Group’s momentum.

The training comes at no cost for those attending. Who pays for it?

Gregg Freeman – When in-person meetings can be organized again, we are counting on the collaboration of volunteers from the local LTAPs, local FHWA, State DOTs and industry.

Primarily we are looking for industry folks who volunteer as presenters, preferably with a partner from a State DOT. We already have a list of potential industry presenters. We are relying on LTAP to help set up the meetings and provide a venue. Alternatively, the venue can be provided by State DOTs that participate in the program. The FHWA BPETG is also supporting this effort.

Travis Kinney – With virtual meetings the organization process could be simplified. However, at this point, organizing virtual meetings on a national scale is a work-in-progress with a number of pieces to be defined.



Local Agency Outreach Working Group

National Local Technical Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA)

Bridge Preservation Expert Task Group (BPETG)


A Conversation with Jeremy Hunter, Chief Engineer with Indiana DOT

Jeremy Hunters, Chief Engineer with Indiana DOT

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Jeremy Hunter is Chief Engineer with the Indiana Department of Transportation and past Chair of the Mid-West Bridge Preservation Partnership. As a leader, Jeremy adopts a collaborative approach method that facilitates solving issues and advancing programs. Bridge preservation is certainly an advanced program at Indiana DOT. This State can proudly show a remarkable track record of 94% of bridges in good or fair condition. My conversation with Jeremy starts with a question about this record.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (see LINK), Indiana’s bridges exceed the national average for safety, with 94% of bridges in fair or good condition. CNBC (see LINK) classifies Indiana as the State with the best 2019 Infrastructure Score. What are the reasons for this impressive data?

Team work and communication are key elements of how Indiana DOT has been able to reach such a remarkable score. Those two are really critical elements. When we think of an engineering program, we tend to characterize it through its technical aspects, while its successful completion usually depends on well-executed team work and effective communication.

What I have always focused on throughout my career with the Agency is how we make bridge preservation practitioners feel as if they are part of the solution, and how we give them proper tools and resources to be successful. Communication is a very important tool. It means making sure that everybody who has an idea or individuates a problem, feels comfortable communicating the idea or the problem, whether this person is on the frontline or in a director-type of role.

Can you make an example of the collaborative approach method that you encourage?

At Indiana DOT we have adopted techniques for bridge waterproofing, including both older and newer bridges. These techniques keep water under control and prevent it from wearing out structural materials. At Indiana DOT waterproofing is a pivotal element of the bridge preservation program. One of the reasons the program functions so well is that anybody who notices something that might be a waterproofing issue, feels confident to signal it, makes everybody aware of the issue, and asks for solutions that can be adopted.  This is where team-work, collaboration and communication come in. People in all areas of the Agency are comfortable with this approach. If they see something that needs to be repaired, they do not let it get to a point that becomes a problem but they signal it right away. Then they try to come up with a solution as quickly as possible.

I understand that this method values employees, especially those who are proactive and expert. Am I correct?

Yes, people come first. Our asset management system is only as good as the people that put information into it. The more informed inspectors and maintenance professionals are, the more they communicate with each other about best practices and right solutions, the more valuable is the data they enter into the system. Building a comprehensive asset management system always starts with the people that select and compile data.

What are the metrics that Indiana DOT adopts for its successful bridge preservation program?

I am not keen on the use of metrics. I do not like focusing on the current status, or where we are at the moment. If we judge ourselves by the metrics, we will very likely end up relaxing and not moving forward. We want to judge ourselves based on different criteria. For example, we continuously improving? Are we learning new strategies? Are we coming up with new, innovative solutions? Are we developing relationships that teach us what we need to know to do our job better tomorrow?

In my line of thinking our bridge program is successful if everybody is continually learning, improving and finding innovation. If we do that, then we will see that our metrics will continue to get better. We want to go from good to great. We do not settle for less.

What challenges are Indiana DOT facing in order to keep bridges in good and fair conditions?

Training is our major challenge, but it is also an opportunity. We need to continue to learn how to train the next generation that is entering the Agency. Personnel will come and go at Indiana DOT, as in any other major organization and industry. What will determine whether we can sustain our current score and improve on it, depends on how we will be able to integrate new personnel into our existing teams. We need to continuously be able to add and train new people, and help them become the best they can be.

You served as the Chair on the Midwest Bridge Preservation Partnership board. Could you speak of your experience with the TSP2 Partnership?

Participating in the Partnership has been an amazing experience for me. I had no idea how rewarding being a part of the Partnership would have been when I first got involved with it.

The Midwest Partnership gathers an amazing team of bridge engineers and practitioners who actually deal with the same challenges and have similar opportunities. Being able to share knowledge with this team has been of great value to me. Before joining the Partnership there were many times when I had an idea for solving a problem but I did not have information on whether the idea was good or not. Thanks to the Partnership I can now call my counterpart in another State and get feedback. Some Midwestern States have in fact tried solutions that have never been implemented in Indiana. Sharing solutions and lessons learned make every State in the Partnership better.

Being able to learn and grow from the relationships that I have developed, having the opportunity to see what the other States are doing, being able to ask questions about challenges or the implementation of new solutions and innovative techniques, these have been the major and the most exciting assets that I gained from being part of the Partnership.

You are a member of two TSP2 Working Groups, the Preservation Matrix” and “Bridge Preservation Research”. Could you briefly speak about these Working Groups?

The preservation matrix (see LINK) is an easy way to summarize and showcase the different solutions that each State is adopting for bridge deck overlay.

Within bridge preservation there is a large number of solutions and technologies that can be implemented. You cannot honestly try to utilize all of them. You have to choose what you think is going to be the right solution for your problem in your State. The matrix is beneficial in helping with this choice. It has been very rewarding for me being able to have such an exchange of information with the preservation matrix team.

Being part of the preservation research team has been equally rewarding. So much research gets done throughout the Midwest and the USA that it is not always easy to know what research has already been done and then learn about its results. The Working Group has responded to this need with a comprehensive research report (see LINK).  The team has also helped identify research needs. We are always faced with new problems to solve and new challenges to overcome. Research is a very powerful tool to address these issues and individuate solutions.

Do you have a success story that you would like to highlight?

My success story entails the relationship with the TSP2 Bridge Preservation Partnership. I have learned so much from the Partnership that I have been able to implement new preservation actions at Indiana DOT, which have been of benefit to the State.

At the beginning of my career, I spent 14 years as a consulting bridge designer. When I joined Indiana DOT, I did not really know a lot about bridge preservation because I had not been exposed to the concept as much in design. My first job with the DOT was what they call bridge asset engineer. In a nutshell it means taking the best care of the bridges you manage and being a good steward of public resources. At that time, I did not know exactly what the best bridge preservation strategies were. So, getting involved with the Partnership, learning what bridge preservation means, being able to talk to bridge engineers who had knowledge and experience about it, helped me tremendously in my job.

Could you provide some additional background information about your professional career?

I have accepted the position of Chief Engineer at Indiana DOT on February 2019. Prior to that I was the Director of Bridge Design at Indiana DOT. For most of my career I have been in bridge design, bridge maintenance, bridge inspection, asset management. I graduated as an engineer 21 years ago from Purdue University.

Can you share something about your personal life? How do you do like spending your free time?

I love music. I am a musician who plays guitar and sings. This is what I spend a lot of my free time doing. I like a wide variety of music from jazz, to country, rock, pop and blues. The time that I spend playing music is very rewarding, because it allows me to feel free and creative.



NBI – 2018 Bridge Condition by Highway System

CNBC – Trump and Dems agree America’s infrastructure needs a $2 trillion fix. These 5 states are in the best shape in 2019

MWBPP: Bridge Deck Overlay Product Matrix

MWBPP:  Bridge Preservation Research Report


A Conversation with Chris Higgins, Professor of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University

Prof. Higgins at the top of the tower of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Prof. Chris Higgins is the academic director for the TSP2 Western Bridge Preservation Partnership. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to TSP2, including a pragmatic approach to bridge preservation problems, striving to obtain quantified outcomes from implemented actions. Many of his research findings have become standard practice and are included into design specifications. His research on load evaluation of reinforced concrete bridges in Oregon has saved up to $500 million to Oregon’s taxpayers. I had the opportunity to speak in person with Prof. Higgins recently.

Could you introduce yourself to the readers of the blog?

I am a professor of Structural Engineering at Oregon State University in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering. I have been doing this job for more than 20 years.

Before joining Oregon State University, I taught at Clarkson University in Upstate New York. This was my first teaching job after getting my PhD. Before going back to school for the PhD, I worked for a consulting engineering firm. This experience differentiates me from most of my colleagues, who have been academics the whole time. Working in the private sector was a very valuable experience for me. I had the opportunity to work on existing structures, a practice that actually led me to bridge preservation.  Existing structures in fact present much more challenges and have much more complex problems than new structures.

Do you mean the challenge of having inherent design limitations?

Right, there are a lot more criteria that come to play when working on existing structures in comparison with new structures. New design is like a blank piece of paper. You can always fill it up with whatever you like. On the other hand, when you have an existing structure, you must be able to design taking into account a lot of constraints. I like this type of challenge. It is where my interest in working on existing structures comes from.

Could you point out other significant steps in your education and career?

Before taking the PhD at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, I did my undergraduate at Marquette University in Wisconsin and my master at University of Texas in Austin.

As I mentioned earlier, my first academic job was in New York State. Then I moved from New York to Oregon, where I live. I have lived in Oregon longer than any other place in my life.

What are the most important achievements in your career?

What I value the most are the students that I have the opportunity to mentor, particularly my graduate students. While a lot of people may not recognize that as an outcome of the academic world, the quality of our students can be regarded as the most valuable and impactful product that we produce. If you think in terms of echo and reverberation, the impact that these students will have on people and future generations is very big and lasts long.

Students are my priority. I tend to be a professor whose philosophy is “do no harm”. It is important for me to “make students better” and “take out their greatest strengths”. However, “do no harm” comes first for me.

Can you describe your practice?

I am mostly known for the work on load evaluation I did with my team when I first started at Oregon State University. In Oregon they had an issue with older, conventionally reinforced concrete bridges that were classified as deficient. At the time of their construction, designers were heavily relying on the strength from concrete thereby putting in the least amount of steel they possibly could. Detailing practices were also insufficient. The design was not poor for the standards of the time, but the state of the art is constantly evolving. It is a fact that the state of the art is constantly evolving. What the state of the art was yesterday, we can recognize as having problems today.

There was a huge need to do remediation and replacement work on the concrete bridges that had difficulties in Oregon since they all showed significant cracking. However, there was also the need to improve our ability to understand the actual condition of these bridges by using more advanced methods of analysis. We established an extensive experimental program focusing on full scale girders, with the goal to evaluate real remaining capacity. We also wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of available engineering tools to look at direct liability analysis, working on both sides of the problem, not just the resistance but also the load effect.

Taking into consideration that Oregon allows vehicles exceeding the Federal standards, we looked at what the real uncertainty of load effects would produce on these older bridges. By doing so we were able to save up to $500 million for the repair and replacement of Oregon bridges.

Could you expand upon the load effect concept?

It simply entails using a better method of analysis to calculate the capacity of bridges to carry load. If you use an old method, you get one answer. If you use a more current method, such as the modified compression theory that is adopted in Oregon, you will get a different answer. By adopting the more current method, we calculated additional load carrying capacity for the bridges in Oregon.

Is the load evaluation method also related to bridge posting?

No, it is not about posting bridges. We are actually trying to avoid posting bridges, since it creates a lot of problems and has a costly impact to the public in terms of both money and safety.

In Oregon we were the first to re-calibrate the load factors of bridges for the specific truck-loading conditions we have. So rather than using the national standard for load factors, we calibrated these factors to our unique conditions.

The load effect is not produced by a single truck but by a combination of trucks. Different states have different types of truck permits. They also have a different number of permits that they can issue, which changes the likelihood of two trucks being side by side over a bridge. In Oregon we were able to define load factors that are realistic and in line with size and number of trucks that will likely use our bridges. Previous load factors were simply too high.

Is it fair to say that the load factor is a sort of flexible indicator?

Yes, it is definitively a flexible factor. For example, when we were looking at the data, we learned that, from a probabilistic standpoint, bridges become safer during a recession.

Are there less trucks driving during a recession?

Yes. Who would have thought that safety of bridges, in terms of reliability assessment, is so strictly linked to the economy? We are actually interested in working with an economist to look at how bridge safety is impacted by the economy. It is an interesting cross-disciplinary research that broadens the way you look at bridges and their safety.

I know that Oregon DOT is also in the forefront of adopting techniques, such as strengthening, that increase the resistance of structural elements. Could you speak about it?

I would say that 90% of my work is related to existing structures, mainly bridges. My focus is on how to better evaluate these bridges, how to determine if they can carry the required loads, and how to strengthen them. We have looked at all kinds of materials and technologies for strengthening, from adding supplemental steel, both external and internal, and near surface-mounted materials, such as carbon fiber. We have also adopted titanium as a new material for strengthening.

Based on the evaluation of advantages and disadvantages for each of these technologies, we have a preference for the use of titanium. This material is metallic, high strength, and ductile. It can be bent, thus providing a good mechanical anchor to the concrete substrate, rather than just relying on bonding. Not only does the titanium provide high strength performance properties but also long-term durability.

At Oregon State University we have a unique facility that accommodates a strong floor in an environmental chamber so that we can simulate an array of conditions that actually occur with bridges. For example, we can bounce structural elements up and down applying mechanical stresses that would simulate truck traffic. We can subject the elements to environmental distress caused by freezing and thawing. We can tailor the magnitude of the stresses that we are producing mechanically with field measurements so as to create the conditions for accelerating damage.

For a lot of construction materials, we find that if we just test their strength on the laboratory floor, we get one answer. If we bounce up and down the structure made with the material, so as to have high-cycle fatigue, we get a second answer. If we just subject the material to environmental exposure, we have a third different answer. By combining fatigue with environment and then testing strength, we find, in some instances, a negative synergy. It can be said that the combined influence of fatigue with environment is more harmful than any other combination of induced stress.

This concept is especially true for concrete structures. Cracks that are usually present in concrete open under the stress induced by traffic and water can get sipped in. When the stress goes away, cracks close but some of the water gets entrapped and it is not pumped out. When this water freezes, concrete begins to deteriorate. If you use a strengthening system that only relies on the chemical bond at the surface, where freeze-thaw cycles happen at a high rate, you can likely experience the deterioration of the bond.

Does your research program entirely focus on bridge preservation?

Yes, and take into consideration that bridge preservation in the West coast also includes seismic retrofitting. If you can keep an existing bridge in service by retrofitting targeted areas so as to achieve seismic performance objectives, you can save a lot of money to DOTs and other owners.

Can you speak of your role as academic director for the TSP2 Western Bridge Preservation Partnership?

I have been academic director probably the shortest length of time between the four directors. So, I am still trying to see how I fit into this puzzle.

The Partnership shows just how common bridge preservation problems are. They are not unique to one state as they cross geo-political boundaries. For this reason, a lot of problems are better solved by the community of bridge preservation practitioners rather than by the individuals. Creating teams of practitioners, who share similar problems, and experts, who can help address those problems, is part of my responsibility as an academic director.

The Partnership has given me new ideas about problems that need to be solved. Every month during the Western Bridge Preservation Partnership conference calls, I learn about new problems and what DOT practitioners are doing to tackle them.

In summary, as a TSP2 academic director for the Western Partnership I learn about new bridge preservation challenges that DOTs are facing and I use my connections in the academic community to address those issues.

Based on your experience at Oregon State University, are civil engineering students aware of bridge preservation programs? Are they interested in these problems?

Bridge preservation is linked to existing materials, analysis and design. Most of our academic training is related to new materials, new design, latest codes, and new construction. However, Oregon State offers courses that deal with existing structures. These are elective for undergraduate as well as graduate students.

In my bridge engineering course, we deal with existing structures’ rating and evaluations but we do not have time to go into specific preservation actions.

I can say that at Oregon State we have more classes than most of the other Universities addressing existing structures, both the evaluation and the rehabilitation side.  However, while the training is out there, it is not organized in a unifying program. From the outside, one would not likely be able to see it. It is available to the students in pieces but not in a holistic way.

What could TSP2 do to increase awareness of bridge preservation in the academic environment?

In 2019 I participated in all the four TSP2 Bridge Partnership Meetings. At each meeting I met only one or two academics. Definitively TSP2 could increase participation from academia in their meetings.

TSP2 is a very practitioner-applied group of people, who need to solve real problems that are faced today. On the other hand, academics tend to be more “blue sky”, that’s a generality, of course. So, bridge preservation practitioners and academics are somehow like oil and water, they do not mix easily.  However, I think there is a larger amount of “oil” and “water” that can be mixed together through TSP2.

We can reach out to academic communities that are actively working locally in areas of mutual interest across the different groups. We may be able to pull more academics in, which would be beneficial to the needs of the TSP2 bridge preservation community.

I particularly recommend reaching out to academics who are involved in research since research is a skill set that can bring immediate value to TSP2.

How can TSP2 attract students, young people who can be interested in having a career in bridge preservation?

Most of my students choose to work in the building world. A good number though have taken state DOT positions or are bridge practitioners in consulting firms.  These jobs are attractive to most of them.

I think that Community Colleges, which are a second academic community, could successfully engage with bridge preservation.  Being applied industrial arts the focus of these colleges, their students are likely to be well suited to the needs of bridge maintenance as well as the people who would likely employ them.

A Conversation with Sarah Sondag, Principal Engineer with Minnesota DOT

Sarah Sondag., Principal Engineer with MnDOT

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

A registered Professional Engineer in the State of Minnesota, Sarah Sondag is the Bridge Operations Support Engineer with the Bridge Office at Minnesota DOT. She is a prominent advocate for bridge preservation as is evident from the programs that she supports at Minnesota DOT. Sarah is active with TSP2 where she sits on the Board of the Midwest Bridge Preservation Partnership, as Vice Chair representing the States.

I had a conversation with Sarah, who like myself lives in the Twin Cities, about her career and her vision for bridge preservation.

Could you outline the pivotal points of your professional career?

After earning a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree and a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota, I started my professional career with Mark Thomas & Company in San Jose’, California. I worked for that company for three years on a wide range of design projects, from highway to flood walls.

I then moved to Duluth, Minnesota, where I started with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in District 1. I was hired as a graduate engineer and rotated through different areas within the District, including hydraulics and soils, before ending in construction as a Project Engineer. After having my first child, I went part-time and focused on specialized projects. One of these projects entailed the creation of a database for construction documentation with the goal of providing easier methods to collect data in the field. After my second child, I transferred to the Traffic Department, where I was the Work Zone Safety Engineer, assisting maintenance and construction crews with work zone layout and safety. I also assisted the crews with traffic control plans for bridge inspection and maintenance, and with traffic management plans.

While I was in District 1, I was given the opportunity to develop a database for bridge maintenance activity tracking. This opportunity ultimately led to my transfer to the Bridge Office in Oakdale, in the eastern side of the Minneapolis – St. Paul Metropolitan area. I was hired as the Bridge Operations Support Engineer, a new position created in the Bridge Office to provide greater support for Minnesota DOT’s District bridge maintenance crews.

One of my first assignments with the Bridge Office entailed coordinating the integration of the bridge maintenance activity tracking system into Minnesota’s bridge inspection software. It required detailing the requirements to track bridge maintenance activities for our crews and tying these activities to inspection findings within the software.

One of my other main responsibilities was to evaluate best practices, with the objective to update the bridge maintenance manual and provide useful resources for our bridge maintenance crews. A Bridge Maintenance Supervisor was hired to assist me in supporting the Districts.  Ultimately, opening communication lines between our District bridge crews and the Bridge Office was an important piece in promoting consistent best practices statewide.

The Bridge Office had created a Bridge Maintenance Supervisor Organization with the goal to facilitate communication between this Office and the Districts and to assist with promoting consistency, efficiency and best practices statewide. We hold semi-annual meetings with Bridge Maintenance Supervisors and lead workers from all of the Districts as well as a safety and training workshop every two years for all of our bridge workers. We exchange ideas, promote best practices, discuss challenges and issues, and explore new technologies and innovation. We also devised task groups within the organization, which work as a vehicle to raise construction or design issues experienced by the crews to the Bridge Operation Support Unit and ultimately to the Structural Standards Research Committee in the Bridge Office.

You are saying that providing tools for bridge preservation practitioners is a good practice but it may not be sufficient. These tools should be supported by a strong communication exchange between the field and the office in order to create the conditions for cultural change. Is this at the core of Minnesota DOT communication policy that you have explained?

Yes, but there is more. We realized that we also needed a way to transfer knowledge more effectively to crew members.  In 2010, the Minnesota DOT had a high turnover due to early retirement incentives. We lost approximately half of our bridge maintenance crew members and seven of the seventeen bridge maintenance supervisors. Had this continued to happen, we would have lost a lot of knowledge. We decided to begin working toward the implementation of a Bridge Maintenance Training Program to capture some of this institutional knowledge before it was lost.

We started with a skills assessment evaluation in order to understand the needs of the crews. We sent questionnaires to our Districts asking about their level of experience with bridge maintenance activities, tools and equipment, along with everything else we thought the crews would need to know.

Instructors and Assistant Instructors at MnDOT BMA

Was Minnesota DOT able to capture its in-house knowledge before so many bridge preservation experts retired?

Yes, this did happen through the development of the Bridge Maintenance Academy. Based on the statewide skills’ assessment, we defined our top training needs. For some of these needs we could work with technical colleges and outside training vendors. However, for routine bridge maintenance tasks, we realized that we would need to create some sort of in-house academy. We also recognized that it was essential to have hands-on classes instead of just PowerPoint presentations. We certainly needed introductory courses surrounding bridge basics and what bridge preservation entails. However, we were convinced that in order for our crews to really learn, it was necessary that the Academy be hands-on and participants be able to actually read plans and work with tools, equipment and materials. We brought in our more experienced supervisors as lead and assistant instructors. We also contracted with two former Bridge Maintenance Supervisors that had retired from the Minnesota DOT to assist with the hands-on portion of the class.

Bridge Maintenance Academy was originally set up as three separate week-long courses.  Bridge Maintenance Academy I consists of primarily classroom sessions introducing topics such as bridge mechanics, bridge components and elements, bridge design concepts, plan reading, introduction to basic types of materials like concrete and steel, as well as an introduction to preservation, traffic control and safety.  Bridge Maintenance Academy II and III are hands-on courses, each a week long, that ultimately result in the actual construction of a small single span bridge.

How is constructing a bridge is related to bridge preservation, which is essentially about maintenance and repair?

There are multiple connections. Many aspects of new construction can also apply to bridge preservation, starting with the knowledge of basic materials, the ability to read a plan, to build formwork, and to work with reinforcing steel. All this knowledge may also be needed to perform repairs.

In addition, during the bridge construction we purposely build in delaminated areas using Styrofoam in the abutment slab and bridge deck so as participants can learn detecting delamination through hammer sounding and chain dragging.  Participants then remove the delaminated areas and perform patching with various materials, including a full depth deck patch.  We also place a strip seal extrusion in the bridge deck so as participants can install and patch a gland.  Furthermore, once the bridge is fully built, we can discuss bridge jacking considerations and provide a hands-on exercise for the participants to practice bridge jacking, which can be a complex and highly significant technique.

During Bridge Maintenance Academy II participants receive an introduction to the fundamentals of structural steel, timber bridge maintenance and formwork.  Participants are also given the opportunity to observe the work performed by experts and execute hands-on bridge maintenance tasks, such as concrete formwork, rebar placement, concrete placement, finishing and curing, chain dragging, concrete removal, patching and structural steel repair.

During Bridge Maintenance Academy III participants construct a small single span bridge in order to facilitate bridge jacking training. As part of this exercise, participants are able to observe experts and perform hands-on bridge maintenance tasks, such as setting elastomeric bearings, setting steel beams, fastening steel diaphragms, constructing bridge deck formwork, placing rebar, placing, finishing and curing bridge deck concrete, installing a strip seal joint and performing full depth deck patching. Following the construction of the bridge, participants receive an introduction to bridge jacking, bearing and joint maintenance fundamentals as well as perform a bridge jacking exercise.

Who participates in the Academy? Are the participants new employees of Minnesota DOT?

The Bridge Maintenance Academy is open to Minnesota DOT bridge crew employees with less than five years of experience and also to other Agencies, such as Cities and Counties in Minnesota and other state Agencies.

How much does it cost to take Minnesota DOT Bridge Maintenance Academy courses?

Currently, we charge a small registration fee of $100 for local Agencies within Minnesota since  the program is supported by our State Aid Office. We charge a $1000 registration fee for out-of-state participants.

Could the Academy develop into a self-supported program?

There might be an opportunity to extend the program and become self-supported. We have had interest from other states in our Academy training program.  It takes significant effort from our Bridge Maintenance Supervisors and lead workers as well as a high level of management support to effectively deliver this type of training.  We are fortunate to have dedicated staff and support for bridge programs at the Minnesota DOT.

Are you planning to develop Bridge Maintenance Academy IV?

It has not been determined yet. Right now, our focus is on converting Bridge Maintenance Academy I into eLearning modules and delivering Bridge Maintenance Academy II and III.

In addition to the Academy, we have also developed on-line resources for some bridge maintenance activities, such as bridge flushing, that are harder to facilitate in a classroom session. The goal of the eLearning modules is to introduce these activities to a crew member who has not had the opportunity to perform them yet or recently.  The eLearning focuses on the benefits of performing these types of activities, their safety and environmental issues, and best practices and procedures for performing the activities on the job site.

We currently have four eLearning courses for bridge preventive maintenance: These are bridge flushing, crack sealing, gland repair, and poured joint sealing, which are available on the MnDOT Bridge Training Website.

What is your current role with the Bridge Academy program? Are you the leader?

It is a group effort. We have many supervisors and lead workers along with a technical college involved in delivering the training. For Bridge Maintenance Academy II and III, we divide the participants into six groups and provide an assistant instructor for each group.

My role is to continue developing and improving the curriculum in collaboration with the instruction team and coordinating training preparation and delivery.

BMA Participants Practicing Bridge Jacking

Is managing the Bridge Maintenance Academy the major responsibility of your team? It looks like a big commitment to me.

During the winter months, we focus on the bridge maintenance training program, planning the semiannual meetings with the Districts’ bridge staff and providing resources and tools to assist the Districts with work planning and data driven staffing decisions. In the summer months we support the crews on a variety of activities, including maintenance data tracking, product field testing and evaluation, equipment training, performance measures, best practices and research. Districts’ crews install many different types of products, so it is important to evaluate these products for performance.  We have set up sites to test various crack sealers, approach relief joints and spot painting products.

Over the last few years, I have returned to full-time and was also able to expand my knowledge in the areas of bridge inspection and bridge construction support through mobility opportunities within the DOT.  In 2017 I worked with our Metro District to advance their bridge inspection program.  For a portion of 2018 I worked with our southern Districts as the South Region Bridge Construction Engineer assisting with scoping, foundation recommendations, plan review and questions during construction.  In 2019 I returned to my role as the Bridge Operations Support Engineer and hope to support the Districts more effectively with the knowledge and experience I have gained.

Could you speak of your involvement with TSP2 Bridge Preservation? Has TSP2 been of help in reaching your goals with Minnesota DOT?

I have been involved with TSP2 for a few years. A couple of years ago, I was elected to a Director role and I am now the Vice Chair on the Board of the Mid-West Bridge Preservation Partnership.  I also serve as Secretary for the National Bridge Deck Preservation Working Group.  My involvement in the Partnership has been of great benefit to me. The partnership conference calls, regional meetings and working groups provide opportunities to learn about effective and innovative bridge preservation practices performed by other Agencies.  We have found a lot of value in the presentations and product demonstrations. These practices and innovations can be brought back to our Agency and help us to identify improvements for Minnesota’s bridge preservation program.

Partnership is really a great word to describe TSP2 because it has truly created a partnership between state Agencies, local Agencies and Industry, where knowledge can be shared and best practices can be discussed with the goal to improve bridge preservation.

Could you share something about your personal life?

I have been married for 17 years. We have two children, a son who just turned 13 in January and a daughter who is 11. Both kids are very involved in club soccer teams.  Our daughter also practices dance and is on a Destination Imagination team. We love to travel, watch the kids’ activities and spend time outside camping, hiking, skiing and enjoying time at the lake.



Minnesota DOT Bridge Maintenance Training

Minnesota DOT Bridge Maintenance Manual

Concrete Bridge Deck Crack Sealant Evaluation and Implementation

Transportation Agency Practices Currently Employed for Bridge Maintenance Painting Operations: Findings from a National Survey

Bridge Maintenance Painting Guidance, Training and Test Site

A Conversation with John Hooks, TSP2 Bridge Preservation

John Hooks with TSP2 Bridge Preservation

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

John Hooks is a key part of the TSP2 Bridge Preservation team. He combines depth of engineering knowledge and technical competence about bridges with great people skills, the ability to listen and to build strong personal relationships.  I had a chance to ask John a few questions at the recent TSP2 Midwest Bridge Preservation Partnership (MWBPP) meeting that took place in Bismarck, ND.

Could you outline the pivotal points of your career as bridge engineer and speak of your professional experience with FHWA?

 I joined the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 1967 after receiving a BSCE and an MSCE in Structural Engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. After rotating through several short assignments on a training program, I served as the Assistant Division Bridge Engineer in FHWA’s New York Division office. In 1975 I transferred to the FHWA Office of Research & Development in the Washington, DC area. This transfer helped define the remainder of my career with FHWA as a specialist in bridge engineering. I spent 23 years developing programs to implement the results of research done by FHWA as well as certain research done by state DOTs and the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP).

The main focal points of my work were bridge inspection, bridge management and bridge preservation. Two of the most notable results were: the 1990 Bridge Inspector’s Training Manual and the associated training courses; and the original DOS version of the bridge management system, Pontis – the basis of the current AASHTO BrM.

The final several years of my FHWA career, I served in the Research section of FHWA Office of R&D where I was the Director of Structures Research. I retired from FHWA at the end of 2004.

How did you get in contact with the TSP2 team? When did you join TSP2 Bridge Preservation?

In 2006, I joined an engineering firm, ENCINC in Virginia. One of my early projects with ENCINC was an FHWA study to develop a Transportation System Preservation (TSP) Research, Development, and Implementation Roadmap which FHWA published in 2008. The TSP2 team at the National Center for Pavement Preservation was a subcontractor to ENCINC for this project and I came to know the TSP2 team well.

Two other projects followed where I served as a consultant to NCPP. I first learned about the TSP2 Bridge Preservation program when I gave a presentation at the 2010 WBPP meeting. In 2012, I became a regular member of the NCPP TSP2 team and have been involved with the Bridge Preservation program and all its activities since then.

What are your main responsibilities at TSP2?

At TSP2, I have multiple responsibilities. The main one is working closely with all four of the Regional Partnerships and assisting with the development, organization and conduct of the annual regional meetings and the national meetings that take place every four years.

Each meeting attracts from 180 to 200 attendees, including industry representatives from 45 to 50 companies who exhibit.

I participate in all of the regular monthly calls and work closely with the eight TSP2 national Working Groups, such as the Bridge Management Systems Working Group for which I am recording secretary.

As a staff member at NCPP, I also work on research projects that the Center undertakes under contract with clients such as FHWA, NCHRP and Michigan DOT.

What do you enjoy of these responsibilities? On the other hand, what do you find most challenging?

Many aspects of my responsibilities are enjoyable. Meeting and collaborating with bridge preservation experts across the nation is satisfying as well as highly educational. There are always new things to learn about bridges and bridge preservation.

Working closely with the many attendees and with the members of the national Working Groups is rewarding, especially in that these volunteer groups develop products that have a significant impact on the practice of bridge preservation.

Of course, travel to the various meeting sites is almost always a pleasure. Partly because of my position at NCPP I have been in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and several foreign nations.

Two of the most challenging aspects of the position are the breadth of preservation technology that I need to be aware of and understand plus the difficulty in measuring the impact of the TSP2 activities on the bridge infrastructure. In many cases, the scope of the impact cannot be determined until many years have passed.

How does your bridge preservation experience at TSP2 differs from FHWA?

The main difference is that with FHWA my efforts were in pursuit of new technology for inspection, management and preservation of bridges. With TSP2, the main thrust of my efforts is to connect with a wide audience of bridge preservation practitioners and assist them in identifying, assessing and ultimately adopting new practices that improve their ability to preserve bridges.

What is your vision for TSP2 Bridge Preservation? What works? What would you like to improve?

The TSP2 program maintains contact with a wide audience of bridge preservation practitioners in state DOTs, local agencies, FHWA, academia and the private sector. The TSP2 staff has several avenues for maintaining a dialogue with those people: through management of the annual regional meetings and the quadrennial national meeting; through participation with the national bridge preservation Working Groups, the FHWA BPETG, and relevant TRB committees; and by providing technical services to the partnerships and individual agencies. This constant communication is the backbone of a collaboration that works quite well. Additionally, over the years, NCPP has amassed an unparalleled library of technical information on a broad range of bridge preservation topics.

What I would like to see happen is that to a greater degree than now, the TSP2 program be recognized as the first stop for bridge preservation information. The other thing I would like to see is a strengthening of current efforts to involve and deliver that information to local bridge owning agencies.

Would you like to share something about your personal life? Are you a morning or an evening person? What do you do like to do in your free time? What is your favorite book?

Sure thing. I am married, and my wife Linda and I have six children and a dozen grandchildren. In addition to enjoying all of them, Linda and I love to travel overseas and experience different cultures, languages and environments.

Most of my life I have been a morning person and for my entire adult life I have been a “fitness buff” and a runner for over 55 years. I do play a little golf (poorly) but my main passion for my free time is reading, mysteries and historical non-fiction being my favorite genres. My favorite book of all time is John Barry’s masterpiece “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927”, a fantastic book about Mother Nature, human nature and the engineering of civil works.

A Conversation with Tripp Shenton, Professor of Civil Engineering at University of Delaware

Prof. Tripp Shenton, University of Delaware

With twenty five years as a University Professor in the field of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tripp Shenton brings his academic experience to TSP2, at both the regional and national level. I spoke with Tripp about several topics including how to increase the popularity of bridge preservation in the academic environment.

Could you talk about your professional career?

I am a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware. I teach undergraduate and graduate courses, primarily with a focus on mechanics. My main area of research is structural health monitoring, with a focus on bridge evaluation and bridge monitoring.

I have been a professor for twenty five years. Prior to that I was in graduate school, but I also spent six years in the public sector working for the Federal Government.

Can you provide some insights about your involvement with the TSP2 Bridge Preservation program?

I have been involved with TSP2 for about eight years. As the academic director for the North-East Bridge Preservation Partnership (NEBPP), I attend the annual meeting, the monthly conference calls and also the national meetings that take place every four years. At the annual meetings I have given presentations and facilitated break-out sessions.

I have also compiled statements of research needs and conducted one small research project that was funded by the NEBPP.

This is generally how I contribute to the Bridge Preservation Partnership right now.

What about the “Research” TSP2 Regional Working Group that you chair?

This Working Group has been formed recently. Not a lot has been done so far through the group.  We are in the early stages of work development.

Has your collaboration with TSP2 affected your academic research programs? If so, how?

It certainly has. I would not say that my research prior to getting involved with TSP2 had anything directly to do with bridge preservation. Research in the fields of structural health monitoring and bridge evaluation is certainly related to bridge preservation but not as directly as the types of activities that the TSP2 Partnership is focused on.

As mentioned before, I carried out a small research project that was funded by the NEBPP several years ago (Ed Note: see Link Section). It was a survey of the past experience and state of practice of the design and maintenance of small movement bridge joints in the North-East region.  That small project led into a larger research project that was funded by NCHRP (12-100). It entailed developing guidelines for maintenance and repair of small movement bridge joints (Ed Note: see Link Section).

These are the topics I can point to for how my collaboration with TSP2 has affected my research program.

What about future research programs?

Since I have been involved with TSP2 several topics came to light that could lead to research programs. However at this time we are simply discussing ideas.

Are students in civil engineering at the University of Delaware aware of bridge preservation initiatives? Are they exposed to bridge preservation programs?

Our general Civil Engineering program is a 4-year degree that has many sub-disciplinaries, such as structural engineering, transportation, geotech, environmental and construction. There are a lot of different areas that students can be exposed to in a general Civil Engineering degree program such as ours. Within structures they are exposed to some aspects of bridge engineering, but they most likely do not get down to the level of detail of bridge preservation.  So I would say that generally students are not exposed to bridge preservation or aware of these initiatives. Bridges represent only one type of structure that civil engineers design and preservation is just a small element of bridge engineering.

The primary ways students could be exposed to bridge preservation would be either through courses or the research they are involved in.  Another avenue would be internships. A lot of our students work over the summer in internships and co-op opportunities. Many of them work for the Department of Transportation and some of them end up working in bridges. If they are in an experience like that, they can certainly be exposed to bridge preservation initiatives.

What can be done to attract talents to bridge preservation?  

Today young men and women coming into engineering are looking for areas that excite them, they can be passionate about, they have a real interest in, and where they will be able to get a job when they finish. There is an awful lot of competition within the engineering professions. A number of engineering disciplines come across as very high-tech, sexy, and innovative. I think of biomedical, nanotechnology,  and cyber security, for example, which are disciplines that you hear a lot about in the news today.

To get the students’ interested in civil engineering we have to make sure we do a good job of promoting and marketing what civil engineers do, how they make a difference, what the important problems are that they solve.  Civil engineering is not usually perceived as glossy and is not frequently linked to the exciting stories that one hears in the news, even though civil engineers solve very important problems that are relevant for the community.

Young people today are very interested in sustainability, climate change, and environmental stewardship. They are concerned about the future of our environment and what we do about it. Bridge preservation can connect with these issues very nicely because it is all about promoting long-term sustainable bridge structures, keeping them in service longer so that we do not have to replace them when they turn 50.  We need to make young adults understand the critical problems bridge preservation engineers are working on and tie them to sustainability.

Unlike other engineering disciplines, civil engineers serve the public. They are not designing the next smart phone or creating a new widget so that some big corporation can make a lot of money. Civil engineers work for the society. This is of tremendous interest to a lot of young people. In tailoring a statement about the importance of bridge preservation, we must underline the fact that bridge preservation engineers not only support a more sustainable approach to engineering but also serve the community.

What could TSP2 do to increase awareness of bridge preservation in the academic environment, focusing on both teachers and students?

One approach would be to develop teaching modules in bridge preservation.  It is a common practice to develop modules for new fields that want to try to inject their issues in a curriculum.  In most undergraduate, and even in graduate civil engineering programs today, you will probably not find a single course in bridge preservation. However, if teachers have a module or two, they could use them in their lectures to introduce the idea of bridge preservation in their courses. Teaching modules would definitively be of benefit to the faculty.

More and more civil engineering programs are linked to sustainability. We have a brand new course on sustainability in our program that every civil engineering student has to take. A few  modules on bridge preservation that an instructor could use in the sustainability course would be of big help.

Promoting research in bridge preservation and advocating for research funding is also important.  From my perspective, while there is a lot of interest in bridge preservation by  owners, consultants, supplier, contractors, and FHWA, there is not a lot of research going on today. It is just not happening, mainly because funding is not there. If there were more funding, more faculty would get involved in research in bridge preservation and  more students would be exposed to this discipline. This would lead to more students graduating and wanting to go to work in the bridge preservation area.

I also think that TSP2 should work with owners and vendors to create internship or co-op opportunities for students focusing in bridge preservation.  A large majority of students today will have had at least one internship before graduating. They can use the internship to explore different areas of engineering. They can see if they are interested in structures or geotech or environmental, for example. Internship and co-op opportunities where students can work in bridge preservation for the summer, would allow students to gain knowledge about this discipline. Students can understand the problems that are addresses in the short and long-term, learn about key technologies and critical issues, with the result that when they graduate they may go into bridge preservation. If a student does a good job in the internship, likes the company or the agency, and that is reciprocated, the student can get a permanent job offer when graduating.

It is important to create a connection between bridge preservation and internship opportunities. A lot of DOTs already have internship programs. What should be assured of are internship slots in the preservation area.



Small Joint Movement – NEBPP Research Program link?

Small Joint Movement – NCHRP Guidelines link?

Gregg Freeman speaks of the newly released Bridge Preservation Pocket Guides

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

The cover three newly released Pocket Guides

The TSP2 Bridge Preservation web site has released the PDF of three Pocket Guides (PG) that have been recently published by the FHWA Bridge Preservation Expert Task Group (BPETG). They are titled: “Bridge Cleaning”, “Removal and Replacement of Bridge Coatings”, and “Thin-Polymer Bridge Deck Overlay System”.  Please also see the link at the bottom of this post.

Not only can the PG be downloaded from the TSP2 web site, but they are also available as a smartphone app. To download the PG smartphone app one must go to iTunes or Google Play Store and search for “RBC Pocket Guide” for Bridge Coating, “BC Pocket Guide” for Bridge Cleaning, and “TPO Pocket Guide” for the Thin Polymer Overlay Guide.

PG are the result of a team work that has been coordinated and led by Gregg Freeman, Director of Business Development with KwikBond Polymers and member of the FHWA BPETG. Experts from Local, State and Federal Agencies, independent Consultants and Industry representatives all contributed to the definition and writing of the PG. I spoke with Gregg so as to have some insights about the development of the PG and his expectations with this project.

Where does the idea of creating PG come from?

After listening to industry presentations and round-table discussion at the TSP2 Regional Partnership meetings, it became clear to me that the understanding of “best practices”, as it relates to selection of activities and installation of materials, was vastly different between what the manufacturers and consultants expected and how these activities were actually performed.  I remember we discussed this issue at one of the first BPETG meetings that I was involved with.  Every member of the BPETG agreed that reference guides, especially related to the activities with a greater potential for failure, were needed.  The idea for the PG came from these discussions.

What are BPETG goals for the PG?

We wanted to create a tool that provides well-founded, reliable information about bridge preservation activities. We focused on those activities that are strategic for maintaining bridge elements in “good” or “fair” conditions thus achieving a long-term service life for bridges. We took in particular consideration the activities that can mitigate potential failure mechanisms.

Overall the PG are expected to:

  • provide proper installation/repair guidelines;
  • provide a check-list for equipment and tools needed;
  • identify limitations and restrictions including regional climates, traffic, and storage;
  • identify potential failure mechanisms and how to avoid them;
  • assess the condition of the deck for properly selecting the right system and/or product.

In creating the PG we had in mind the needs of different people involved in bridge preservation. For example, designers and spec writes can employ the PG as a reference for “best practice” and proper material/product recommendations. Inspectors can use the PG to assist with the completion of work at the job site. When using PG smartphone app, PDF check lists come to life as toggles that can be checked once a task in the field is completed. Information can then be emailed from the field to the office through the app as a record of work completed.

Which resources did you use for the development of the PG?

We began by selecting a lead SME (Editor Note: Subject Matter Expert) for each PG.  The SME reached out to State, Local, Federal Agencies, Consultants and Industry in order to create expert teams.  Each team started evaluating the existing resources, making sure that these resources were available to a larger public, and eliminating practices that were not supported by respected sources.

After each group of experts developed the initial PG version, the draft circulated around the country to reach State and Federal experts for review.  Needless to say each PG went through many changes throughout this process.

I led the team for the Thin-Polymer Bridge Deck Overlay Systems guide.  Our fairly large group of people included Jason DeRuyver from Michigan DOT and Mike Stenko from Transpo who took lead roles as well.

The Removal and Replacement of Bridge Coatings team was headed up by Ted Hopwood from the Kentucky Transportation Center, while the Bridge Cleaning team was led by Michael Brown with WSP.

Is the BPETG planning to release additional PG?

Yes, the Joint Systems guide is expected to be published soon. It is going through a final formatting process.  The team has been led by Debbie Steiger with Watson Bowman. Tony Brake from Caltrans has also taken a leading role in this team.

In the next 6 months or so, we plan to develop three additional PG, such as “Spot, Zone and Overcoat Painting”, “Deck Patching” and “Concrete Substructure Repairs”.

Other topics are for future consideration are:

  • Spot, Zone and Overcoat Painting
  • Deck Patching
  • Concrete Substructure Repairs
  • Concrete Superstructure Repairs
  • Steel Superstructure Repairs
  • Bearings: Clean, Reset and Grease
  • Removing Channel Debris and Scour Repairs

As the project leader for the PG, what challenges have you encountered so far?

Simply put, not all experts agree!  And not everyone can agree upon what available resources are the best to use.  Another point of discussion entailed information to be included in the checklists so as to have all PG to flow in a consistent format.

How have the PG been received so far?

It’s still early to say.  The smartphone app has just become available at the TSP2 WBPP meeting in Reno on May 14-16.  The app is very easy to download. When I presented the PG project at the meeting, some people in the audience downloaded the apps right there on the spot. The idea is for them to take the PG back to their home State and share information with maintenance crews.

Advancing the use of the PG is also one of the goals of the TSP2 “Local Agency Outreach” National Working Group that I co-chair with Travis Kinney from Oregon DOT. We are planning to promote the PG at TSP2 Regional Partnership meetings as well as at LTAP (Ed Note: Local Technical Assistance Program) and NACE (Ed Note: National Association of Corrosion Engineers) and other relevant gatherings and conferences.  We also plan on visiting Local Agencies around the country with the support of the FHWA, AASHTO Committee’s and State Agencies.

What feedback have you received about the PG so far?

There is a wide consensus that these guides are a useful tool for bridge preservation, but definitively I am looking forward to receiving more feedback on their content and use. This is essential information in order to continue to improve the quality of the PG that will be released at a later day and meet the expectations of bridge preservation practitioners.