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.




A Conversation with Brian Mintz, Phoscrete Corporation

Brian with his grandson Hudson at the 2018 TSP2 National Meeting in Orlando.

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Brian Mintz,  the General Manager for Phoscrete Corp. based in Deerfield Beach, FL, and operating in North America, is very passionate about bridge preservation both personally and professionally.

Bridge preservation is in fact the focal business of Phoscrete Corp.

Brian participates in the life of TSP2. He chairs the He chairs the Innovative Technology Demonstrations (ITD) National TSP2 Working Group and is industry vice-chair of the Southeast Bridge Preservation Partnership (SEBPP). Brian is also a voting member of International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI)  Materials and Methods Committee.

Could you speak of the path that brought you to be the General Manager of Phoscrete Corporation?

I have a long history. In 2003 I began working as Marketing and Communications Director for Stellar Materials, then the parent company of Phoscrete. Because our VP Engineering was native German, I edited his technical documents prior to publication. I learned a great deal about our phosphate-bonded technology. In 2009 I was promoted to Vice President of Business Development for the Phoscrete product line. In 2011 Phoscrete Corporation spun off from Stellar and a few years later, in 2015, the original founder and patent-holder,  Jean Tremblay, and I acquired Phoscrete. Unfortunately Jean passed away in 2017. I am now the General Manager of Phoscrete Corporation.

What are your core values as the leader of Phoscrete?

Integrity first. Sometimes we decline projects where Phoscrete is not the best fit.

At Phoscrete we strive to understand both objectives and obstacles facing our customers, distributors, and strategic partners. For me success is when everyone wins.

Phoscrete Corp. offers the Magnesium Alumino Liquid Phosphate (MALP) technology for fast setting concrete repairs.  Can you briefly describe this innovative technology, its advantages, and its limitations?

Due to its properties, MALP can solve a number of  problems that occur in the repair and maintenance of concrete bridges. That’s why we ask a lot of questions to understand what is important to each customer. Here are the main advantages and limitations.

Phoscrete is a next-generation mag-phos repair mortar that does not use ammonia and does not out-gas. Instead of water we combine our pre-measured dry mix and a liquid phosphate activator.

Phoscrete created MALP formulations for Horizontal/Castable (Pour), Vertical/Overhead (Patch) and Shotcrete/Gunite (Spray) applications. . Repairs are durable and long lasting since Phoscrete bonds strong, both chemically and mechanically, to the concrete substrate, and to itself with no cold joints.

Phoscrete products are fast setting and have high early strength gain. Phoscrete repairs typically allow traffic-reopening as soon as 30 minutes following placement.

Phoscrete products stop steel bar corrosion on contact and protect against the halo effect. Our products also contain fibers for increased ductility.

Phoscrete is an excellent expansion joint header material that accepts joint seals in the same lane closure.

Phoscrete is easy to mix and apply. It can be used even in sub-freezing temperatures due to the availability of a specially designed fast-set admixture.

Like every other technology, Phoscrete has its limitations. Jugs of the Liquid Activator  must be chilled to work in hot temperatures. Saturated Surface Drysurfaces require using of a scrub coat or a torch to evaporate surface moisture prior to installation. Installation crews must be able to adjust to the short working time of Phoscrete products.

What challenges has Phoscrete encountered in promoting MALP technology for bridge preservation?

The QPL process is time-consuming, expensive and different from state-to-state. Nevertheless our newest product, Phoscrete HC, was introduced in 2015 and four years later, we are approved in the QPL of 25 US states.

Some States pose upfront restrictions, such as only accepting Portland cement-based repair materials and requiring water-mixes. Other States exclude mag-phos materials due to the out-gassing  of older mag-based technologies.  Convincing these DOT Materials Labs of the advantages of MALP requires patience and perseverance. Luckily, we have ten-year performance history with DOTs, and many advocates of our technology.

Do you have any advice in order to overcome these challenges? Are there any solutions you would you like to recommend?

Standardized national or regional QPL specifications would be great.  NTPEP offers standardized testing, but not standardized specifications.

You are the chair of the Innovation Technology Demonstrations (ITD) TSP2 National Working Group. How did the idea for this Working Group originate?

Our former northeast rep ideated and launched a similar program with the pavement group. It was called Technology Transfer Initiative (TTI). Its concept was to expose innovative products, processes, and services to interested parties, with independent oversight and knowledge sharing. The goal was to find a faster way to bring innovative products and services to come to market.

The ITD Working Group started from the TTI concept and expanded it to bridge preservation.

What has the Working Group achieved so far?

We completed the pilot program using MALP technology. It was a bit slow at the start but we learned a lot of lessons along the way.

Starting this year, we transformed our monthly call into an actual working meeting where everyone dedicates time to collaboration and the creation of documents and processes.

We expanded our Working Group team gathering representatives from manufacturers, consultants, academia, DOTs, in addition to TSP2. We have a truly excellent team.

What are the 2019 goals for the ITD Working Group? And what are its long-term goals?

In the first quarter we completed the ITD Guidelines and Application Form for manufacturers to participate in the program. We already have one company, Jet Filters Application, that submitted the application and three other companies  that plan to be participate in the  ITD program with their technologies.

Our goal for 2019 is to fine tune the process so it becomes a well-oiled, running machine by 2020. Also by 2020 we count to have presentations of ITD technologies uploaded on the TSP2 website. We are planning to give these presentations  at the monthly calls and  at the annual Meetings of the four Regional Partnerships.

You have been participating in TSP2 Bridge Partnership National and Regional Meetings for several years. Has your company benefitted from the participation in these Meetings? If so, how?

Absolutely Phoscrete has benefited! 2019 marks our 10th year as a National Member. I made many great professional contacts and personal friends through TSP2. Phoscrete has absolutely benefited from participating in the TSP2 National and Regional Meetings. The year 2019 marks our 10th year as a National Member.

Our success in the DOT marketspace is due in a large part to the introductions at these meetings. We developed mutually profitable strategic partnerships with other suppliers. We hired sales people and manufacturer reps with experience in our industry thanks to TSP2.




TSP2 National Working Groups, including ITD (Innovative Technology Demonstrations)


A Conversation with Michael Johnson, Caltrans

Michael Johnson, State Transportation Asset Management Engineer at Caltrans

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Michael Johnson is the State Transportation Asset Management Engineer at Caltrans, a responsibility that includes the management of both bridges and roads. Beyond his work at Caltrans, Michael is very active in the bridge preservation community and with TSP2. He is the Chair of the AHD37 Bridge Preservation Committee, which gathers more 80 people representing DOTs, Academia, FHWA, and TSP2. He is also a member of TRB AHD00 Section – Maintenance and Preservation, ABC40 Standing Committee on Transportation Asset Management and AHD35 Standing Committee on Bridge Management.

I had quite a long conversation with Michael about his job, career and commitment with bridge preservation.

Could you talk about your education and career path?

My education includes a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from California State University in Sacramento and a Master in Science with Structural Engineering concentration from the same University.  I am a licensed Professional Engineer in California.

My 28-year long career has been entirely with Caltrans.  I spent my first two years going through the Caltrans’ rotation program, which is a great program for new engineers in the bridge area. During the first two years of employment, a new engineer gains experience of bridge maintenance, bridge design and bridge construction, thus getting a broad understanding of how to design and construct a bridge, and also what kind of maintenance issues a bridge may have.

I started out as bridge inspector and worked for a number of years in this position. Since California was a pilot State for element level bridge inspection, I was very involved with this program early on. It ultimately led me down a path that included co-authoring the AASHTO Bridge Element Inspection Guide Manual that is used today nationwide.

I then progressed to Bridge Management. I ran bridge programs with focus on project scope, funding and decision-making in order to prioritize projects. I was also managing the underwater inspection program, the fracture critical inspection program, in-house paint programs and all of data management for bridge inspection. This job married my prior inspection background with my management expertise.

My current position was created to implement asset management across all of Caltrans managed assets.  In this role I have extended many of the concepts I learned in Bridge Management to a broader set of assets. The biggest physical asset in California is represented by pavement. Bridges are the second most heavily invested asset. We also have a fairly large program for culverts, and transportation management system elements. The big four assets are definitively pavements, bridges, culverts, and our transportation management system elements.

What are your current responsibilities?

I have two broad responsibilities as Caltrans State Asset Management Engineer. The first is to oversee the implementation of asset management in Caltrans. The second broad duty involves the management of Caltrans rehabilitation program, which is $4.4 billion annually. This program covers rehabilitation and replacement of physical infrastructure, safety preservation operations and more. It includes all the facilities that Caltrans owns. It is quite broad.

Could you talk about Caltrans Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP), its goals, challenges and achievements?

The TAMP (Ed Note, see links below) presents a fairly high level of strategic framework for how we are managing infrastructures in California. There are many components in this plan, but its core is what we call the three-prong asset management approach.

The first component includes programs to support highway and bridge crews, thus recognizing their importance for the preservation and maintenance of the State Highway System. Caltrans has crews that specialize in bridge maintenance and repairs. Caltrans is also one of the few DOTs that have in-house structural steel painting crews with the number of painters totaling more than 100.

The second aspect of the three-prong asset management approach is the preservation program.  The goal of this program is to slow down deterioration or delay future rehabilitation and replacement. We have a very robust maintenance program including many types of preservation treatments. This program’s expenditure is approximately $500 million per year for pavements, bridges and culverts.

The third and final element of the three-prong approach entails the major rehabilitation and replacement program, which is about $4.4 billion annually.  This program covers physical asset as well as operational aspects, safety, congestion and others.

A major overall achievement of the TAMP program has been the implementation of a Performance driven approach, which is helping us to be more consistent with our investments over time.  In the past, the emphasis was on the value of what was spent on a single asset, while now it is on how much the conditions or the performance of that asset have improved. In the past we also had a tendency to invest heavily in the hot item of the time, thus moving from one hot item to another instead of having a more consistent and disciplined approach.

Finally, through the asset management plan development, we enhanced transparency and accountability in our management. Since we are bringing good results, this approach has led us to get additional resources for the preservation and rehabilitation of our system.  So there has been a very positive outcome as a result of the implementation of TAMP. We now have people and funding to take proper care of our highway system.

How can bridge maintenance engineers at Caltrans take advantage of TAMP?

TAMP’s focus is on measured performance outcomes. By doing this, the program really highlights the benefits that maintenance programs bring to the Department. The recognition of these benefits has in turn led to more funding and more people being available for maintenance and preservation statewide. These are certainly of great assistance to maintenance engineers.

California recently enacted a significant gas tax increase; the first one in many years. Politically it was not an easy thing to do. Our work in asset management helped provide confidence that we had a good management structure in place and we can quantify needs very well. A solid asset management approach helped to justify a significant funding package for transportation.

As we are implementing the asset management plan, with focus on performance management, we are also developing a number of new software tools that are available to bridge engineers. As an example, our maintenance engineers can now go to the web site and see every asset in the highway system, color-coded based on current condition and planned projects. This tool allows engineers to understand the relationship between the assets, their condition and the project portfolios. In Caltrans we could easily be juggling 3,000 projects at a time between planning, design, and construction. Knowing what is going on and what is going to happen for each asset helps maintenance engineers make better decisions about what they want to do and where they want to work.

As the chair of TRB “AHD37 Standing Committee on Bridge Preservation”, could you illustrate activity and goals of this Committee?

The TRB Bridge Preservation Committee has a fairly broad and general scope advocating for research and activities that extend the life of existing bridges, communicate measures and benefits of preservation, and expand the development of tools and techniques that further bridge preservation.

Our effort in the Committee takes us into several areas such as non-destructive evaluation and monitoring, design and construction, strategies for improved service life, bridge preservation training, bridge preservation research, products and materials for bridge preservation. We are also looking at bridge preservation reports and research that are being published around the country, and the development of policies related to bridge preservation at national and state level.

Innovation for preservation is one of our general objectives. We want to know what kind of innovation ideas are starting to emerge. Another key objective entails communication. We are looking at how to communicate bridge preservation benefits and to market the value of preservation.

We work seamlessly with various aspects of AASHTO, such as the Maintenance Committee and the Committee on Bridge and Structures. We also work with the TSP2 Regional Partnerships and FHWA. The chairs of the AASHTO Committees and the lead of FHWA and TSP2 Bridge Preservation are all members of the TRB Bridge Preservation Committee AHD37. We have basically brought together the leadership of AASTHO, FHWA and TSP2 in the TRB Committee. This makes it easy for the members of the Committee to keep track what is going on in the area of bridge preservation between the various groups and organizations.

You also have a strong representation from Academia and industry in the TRB Bridge Preservation Committee AHD37. Could you comment about it?

As with all TRB Committees, the AHD37 includes industry members and academic members, in addition to DOTs representatives.  At the core, TRB is a research focused organization and we rely on our academic partners for research.

The industry is also a critical partner, in particular manufacturers who are producing products and materials for bridge preservation and consultants who provide supporting services. The more we engage with the industry representatives, the more they understand the kind of issues DOTs are having and, in turn, can work on developing products, materials and services that are solutions to the problems that have been identified. Our balanced mix of members on the AHD37 helps make the Committee more successful.

What are the focus areas of the AHD37 Committee?

A topic of particular interest to the Committee is trying to answer the question of when and why bridges are taken out of service. We are researching questions like: how old should a bridge be when it is taken out of service? When should a bridge be replaced with a new bridge? We initiated a number of different research projects related to this topic.

We are interested in the condition and performance of a bridge during the last year of service but also in what functional features the replacement bridge has that the prior bridge did not have. More than one research report shows that bridges are not always being replaced because of condition.  A lot of times bridges are replaced because they are no longer functionally adequate or they have other sorts of vulnerabilities.  This viewpoint gives us a very broad definition of bridge preservation.

Another area of interest to the Committee is understanding the decision variables that should be considered before deciding to replace a bridge. There have been a number of instances where there was the perception that the service life of a particular bridge was near the end. However, when the bridge did not actually get replaced for various reasons, it ended up remaining in service and functional adequate for ten or fifteen more years. This makes us wonder if there might be a better criterion for deciding when it is time to replace a bridge. In other words, preservation may be simply a matter of making better decisions of when a bridge is at end of its life.

You are active in a number of TRB Committees. What is the best way for a bridge preservation engineer to keep up with the work of TRB?

There is a lot going on in bridge preservation between AASTHO, FHWA, TRB, TSP2 Regional Partnerships and State DOTs. It is therefore really difficult to stay on top what is happening.

In order to spread bridge preservation information to all interested people, who many times do not have the opportunity to participate in meetings of the different organizations, we have created the bridge preservation newsletter that is available from the TSP2 Bridge Preservation web site.  The newsletter has sections that highlight new innovative products and practices, provides a listing of recently completed and on-going research projects, and has a links to research results.

The first publication highlights an innovative product for corrosion protection of bridge deck reinforcement. It also highlights some work that is going on between FHWA Bridge Preservation Expert Task Group and TSP2 to produce bridge preservation pocket guides. The newsletter has a fairly comprehensive list of research projects completed in the last couple of years or that are ongoing.

In a limited number of pages, one can get a quick insight of some of the hottest things that are going on in preservation.  The publication is scheduled to be released with some frequency and offers opportunity for publication of topics from different bridge preservation avenues.

Could you comment about TSP2 and your involvement with this organization?

TSP2 is unique in many respects. It brings together peers from neighboring Agencies, thus helping create personal relationships between them. It gathers industry expertise and academic perspective all focused on bridge preservation. Meetings are hands-on and very practical. At TSP2 people do not generally talk about research programs that are going to happen, but the talk is about everyday preservation problems and sharing different ideas on how to address these problems.

I became active with TSP2 because of its peer connection. It can really benefit you to know the people who do your same job in the nearby States. Once you develop the relationship, you can call these people, exchange ideas and get the benefit of their experience.

I have an example of this. The State of Utah’s TSP2 member was concerned about cutting access openings to the bottom of box girder bridges. He was worried that it would cause damage to the bridges. When he called me to ask about my experience with this practice, I had to chuckle. We cut hundreds, if not thousands, of access holes into bridges in California following major earthquakes and we have never had a problem. I was able to provide reassurance to the engineer from Utah DOT about the reliability of the practice. I was also able to share Caltrans standard plan showing how and where to cut access openings in box girder bridges. I am sure that in 20 minutes the Utah representative felt a lot better about what he was going to do and how to plan for its execution. This is an example of the power of TSP2.

In your opinion, what are the major challenges that DOTs and local owners face in the implementation of successful bridge preservation strategies?

I can boil it down to two primary challenges. First and foremost preservation is not really as celebrated as new construction is. Preservation is not particularly attractive in this regard. I think that our culture needs to change. We need to celebrate preservation the same way we would host a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new facility.

The second challenge is closely related to the previous one. In order to make preservation more attractive and investments more appealing broadly, we have to do a better job of communicating the benefits of preservation in a very clear and understandable way.

Could you point out one or more projects that you fondly remember?

I had the benefit of being involved in two projects that kind of stand out for me.

One was an emergency repair of a collapsed bridge at the MacArthur Maze that approaches the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge.  A gas truck had caught fire at the interchange causing the collapse of a second level bridge that landed on the bridge underneath and heavily damaged it. This is a very busy highway in California. My team worked on restoring the bridge that was damaged by the upper bridge collapse by implementing a massive heat straightening effort.  Within a relatively short time we actually brought the bridge back from the grave, as badly as it was damaged.

I also worked on another project that was notable, but for a different reason. We had installed an acoustic monitoring system for steel cracking on the old San Francisco Bay Bridge before it was demolished. This project was very innovative and ground breaking. It proved the value of structural health monitoring on large scale bridges. To this day the San Francisco Bay Bridge remains one of the few bridges in the world that had such a system installed. This project demonstrated how we can effectively use structural health monitoring to safely extend the life of bridges.


TAMP – http://www.dot.ca.gov/assetmgmt/tam_plan.html


A Conversation with Dave Whitmore, President of Vector Corrosion Technologies

Dave Whitmore (on the left)

Dave Whitmore (on the left) at TSP2 with Wayne Senick of Termarust Technologies

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Dave Whitmore is the President and Chief Innovation Officer for Vector Corrosion Technologies Ltd., a Canadian company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that operates in North America and worldwide.

Dave has an unmatched knowledge and experience related to bridge preservation. He started dealing with preservation issues early in his career that has spanned from contracting to manufacturing and consulting.

Dave is active in AASHTO, TSP2 and TRB. He also participates in industry organizations that focus on concrete repair and corrosion.

Can you illustrate the path that led you to become the President of Vector Corrosion Technologies?

It started in the 1960’s when my father and two partners established a construction business focusing on road and highway construction. The company then got into concrete restoration and became Vector Construction. Having been involved in the family business, I got an opportunity to be exposed to concrete repair early in my career thus gaining knowledge and experience in the concrete restoration industry.

After graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Manitoba and an MBA from the Ivey School of Business, I went to work for Vector Construction. I established Vector Corrosion Technologies in the 1990’s, focusing on the product and technology side of the concrete repair business.

What about your commitment to the industry? I know that you are active with several Committees related to bridge preservation, concrete restoration, and steel corrosion.

I enjoy our industry and the opportunity to participate in a number of industry organizations.

With regard to bridge preservation, I am part of the TRB Bridge Preservation Committee. (Ed Note: see Linkage section). This is a very interesting and useful Committee that promotes bridge preservation at quite a high level within DOTs. I did a presentation for that Committee last year. (Ed Note: see Linkage section). The year before I did a presentation for a session that was sponsored by the same Committee

I am a big supporter of TSP2. I especially support the annual Regional Meetings and the National Conference that takes place every four years. These gatherings are a great opportunity for industry and DOT representatives to come together, discuss and solve problems.

I am involved in other industry groups that are not specific to bridge preservation but share many of the same concerns. These are the American Concrete Institute (ACI), the International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI), the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE), the Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI) and the American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI). (Ed Note: see Linkage section). They are all really good organizations. I am on a number of Committees with these organizations concerning repair, corrosion, specifications and codes. Hopefully the activity of these Committees will help the industry to be more productive and effective in the future. On a personal level, I am happy that I get to meet and spend time with a lot of interesting people.

Vector Corrosion Technologies offers products and services to solve corrosion problems, as it is summarized by the tagline: “Innovative Solutions for Corrosion Problems”.  Can you introduce your company? Is bridge preservation a focus sector?

Helping owners extend the service life of their concrete structures is the mission of Vector Corrosion Technologies.

Bridge preservation is a key market segment for Vector. Both in North America and internationally, our focus is on structures that have durability challenges, such as marine structures and bridge decks that are exposed to de-icing salts.  These structures suffer the most from corrosion and can really benefit from pro-active bridge preservation activities.  (Ed Note: see Linkage section).

Can you speak of your core values as the leader of Vector Corrosion Technologies?

Persistence and honesty are my core values and I look for these values in everyone I work with. Striving for knowledge and continuing to learn every day is also important. At Vector, these values help us to address a lot of the problems we see out there.

Vector’s tag line, “We Save Structures”, is at the core of the company’s strategy for bridge preservation. Has Vector’s strategy evolved over time? If so, how?

There is no question that Vector has evolved over time. We started as a contractor and we are now involved in determining the cause of concrete deterioration problems and recommending appropriate repair solutions. We are engaged in the overall process, which helps make sure that our customers have positive results.

It may not be widely known but a lot of concrete repairs have not performed very well, or, at least, have not performed as intended over time. There have been a number of reports about this issue. I believe the major reason why many repairs have performed below expectations is that they have been simply cosmetic and have not addressed the underlying cause of concrete deterioration.

Vector focuses on the evaluation so that we can understand the underlying causes of deterioration and develop a durable, long-term repair strategy.

If I understand correctly, filling a concrete pothole is not enough. In order to have a successful repair, it is important to evaluate the root cause that generated that pothole.

Yes, it is easy to do what somebody asks you to do. Do you want me to patch this pothole?  Yes, I will patch the pothole. Do you want me to repair this crack? OK, I will repair the crack. But if I don’t address what caused the pothole or the crack, fixing the pothole or the crack will likely be temporary and in the long term will likely end up being a waste of time and money.

What are the most popular products and services that Vector currently offers for bridge preservation?

Our most popular products for bridge preservation are definitively the galvanic anodes that help prevent corrosion of reinforcing steel. These products are widely used since they are effective, measurable and very simple to install.

In terms of services, investigation and testing are critically important in order to determine cause and extent of corrosion problems. Providing these services was a very small part of our business twenty years ago. The evaluation business has increased significantly as people are becoming more aware that it is important to address the underlying cause of a problem and not just fix where they see visible damage.

Does Vector Corrosion Technologies offer these services directly to DOTs?

In some cases we provide evaluation services directly the DOTs. In many cases we work as a sub-consultant to a prime consultant that is under contract to the DOT.  We are not a structural engineering firm.  We support structural consultants with evaluation and testing services.

Has Vector recently released new products or new services for bridge preservation?

We have released three new products specifically for bridge preservation.

The first is in the area of galvanic anodes. We released a new line of galvanic anodes that are faster to install.  These anodes can be installed in approximately half the time required to install standard anodes. This saves time on site and money as a result of the reduced installation time. (Ed Note: see Linkage section).

The second product is a galvanic jacket specifically designed for marine structures. Very often the main issue with coastal or marine bridges is corrosion of the columns that support the superstructure. If you extend the service life of the columns then you can significantly extend the service life of the entire bridge. The new jacket provides improved corrosion protection for the columns from the water line up. Being modular, it is easy to install and can be modified in the field to suit different site conditions. (Ed Note: see Linkage section).

The third new product is designed to solve a specific and really important problem related to post-tensioned structures. Working together with Florida DOT, we developed a corrosion protection impregnation technique for post-tensioned bridge tendons. Like any other type of steel, post-tensioned tendons will corrode if they are not well protected. This can lead to tendon failures and eventually bridge closure. Vector’s new post-tension impregnation technique has been shown to reduce corrosion of the tendons by 95%, thus dramatically increasing DOTs’ confidence in the condition of their post-tension structures. (Ed Note: see Linkage section).

Could you point out a major challenge that Vector Corrosion Technologies is facing in promoting products and services for bridge preservation? If so, what is your advice on how to overcome this challenge?

Despite increasing awareness of the importance of bridge preservation, people still spend a lot of time and money on cosmetic repairs. As we discussed earlier, cosmetic repairs are temporary since they don’t usually address the underlying cause of the problem. As a result, owners end up spending more money than necessary for concrete repairs.

My advice is for DOTs to adopt performance specifications and performance requirements. Most DOT specifications are prescriptive and they are often written to the lowest common denominator.  This can only lead to low quality work.  On the other hand, if you hold the contractor responsible for the work that is performed, the contractor will take more care with the installation thus improving the overall performance of the work.

Could you further comment about prescriptive Vs performance-based specifications?

In my experience prescriptive specifications are not effective unless they are very detailed and there is a way of checking all of the steps that are specified.

As an example, there are many bridge deck overlay and repair specifications that state “clean the surface” or “provide a certain roughness of the substrate” but ultimately bond is what really counts. Having a performance specification that requires a minimum bond strength and provides a way to measure it, is more important than a series of prescriptive statements where no one is held responsible for the final outcome.

With regard to corrosion, there are some very important steps that must be taken. For example, it is important to clean the reinforcing steel to ensure there is good electrical contact between the anode and the steel. However, specifications should not only require “cleaning of the steel”, but they should also include performance requirements where the electrical connection is actually measured and confirmed.



Vector Corrosion Technologies web site:

TRB AHD37 – Standing Committee on Bridge Preservation Committee web site:

Dave Whitmore 2017 TRB Power Point presentation:

We Save Structures: Concrete Preservation & Restoration – Preservation is a Sustainable Practice video:

Concrete Preservation Alliance web site:

Galvashield XP Compact – Single Wire vs Two Wire Anode Installation video:

Galvashield Fusion T2 Anode for Concrete video

Galvashield Jacket Systems – Mitigating Corrosion to Extend the Life of Marine Piles PDF:

Post-Tech PTI Impregnation System – Corrosion Protection System for Bonded Post-Tension Tendons PDF:

American Concrete Institute (ACI)

International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI)

National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)

Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI)

American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI)

A conversation with Raj Ailaney, Chair of FHWA BPETG

Raj Ailaney, chair of the FHWA BPETG

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Raj Ailaney is the chair of the Bridge Preservation Expert Task Group (BPETG) that gathers more than 20 people representing FHWA, TSP2 BPP, AASHTO, TRB, academia and industry. I contacted Raj to know more about the goals and the activity of this group that puts together such an unmatched depth of bridge preservation knowledge and expertise.

Could you introduce yourself? What is your education? What are the key points of your professional career?

I am a Senior Bridge Preservation Engineer with the Office of Bridges and Structures, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Headquarters in Washington, DC. In this position, I develop guidance and policies for preservation of bridges in support of FHWA’s performance-based program to maintain a state of good repair.

I’ve been with FHWA since 2003 and in my current position since early 2016. Prior to this position, I was an Acting Senior Advisor to the Associate Administrator of Office of Infrastructure. In that position, I provided support and guidance to the FHWA leadership on program and policy issues having national, regulatory, and legislative implications. Before joining FHWA, I was a Project Director with a Consulting Engineering firm in Northern Virginia, where I managed design, construction and inspection of bridge projects for various State Department of Transportation agencies.

I’m a 1984 graduate and holds a Masters in Structural Engineering from University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m a licensed Professional Engineer in Virginia and Maryland.

What are the core elements of the BPETG mission?

The mission of BPETG is to advance and improve the state of the practice in the area of highway bridge preservation. We continue to work collaboratively with the States, four AASHTO TSP2 regional bridge preservation partnerships, TRB, industry and academia in developing products to promote bridge preservation.

Who are BPETG members? How is the activity of the group organized?

When I became the Chair in early 2016, I reorganized the membership for national outreach and focused on developing the strategic plan.  I created membership based on positions rather than specific individuals. For example, the current members include the chair, or their representatives, from four AASHTO TSP2 Regional Bridge Preservation Partnerships; chairs of three TRB Standing Committees on Bridge Preservation (AHD-37), Bridge Management (AHD-35), and Structure Maintenance (AHD-30); and representatives from the AASHTO Committee on Bridges and Structures (COBS) technical committees on Bridge Preservation (T-9) and Bridge Management, Evaluation, and Rehabilitation (T-18) and Bridge Technical Working Group, Committee on Maintenance (COM). In addition, we have members from academia and industry to get a full breadth of the preservation expertise.

Leadership of the BPETG is provided by FHWA with a co-chair position filled by a state DOT member either from AASHTO COBS or COM on a rotating two-year term basis. Members from academia and industry are appointed for three-year terms by the chair, with a possible reappointment.

Through this forum, FHWA solicits input from individual participants but does not intend to establish or utilize the BPETG as an advisory group in the interest of obtaining advice and recommendations under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Decisions by the BPETG are not binding on the FHWA.

BPETG holds monthly virtual meetings via web and one face-to-face meeting per year.

What are BPETG goals and Strategic Objectives?

BPETG identified four Strategic Objectives:

  1. Provide guidance on cost-effective bridge preservation strategies
  2. Promote bridge preservation as a component of asset and performance management
  3. Advise and assist in developing educational materials on bridge preservation
  4. Foster a collaborative environment that encourages research and innovation

Under each Strategic Objective, we have several actions that we are trying to accomplish.

Preventive maintenance (PM) activities are essential for bridge preservation. How has the use of federal funds for PM evolved over years?

Use of Federal funds for preventive maintenance (PM) activities on Interstate highways was initially authorized in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.  Subsequently, the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 amended Section 116 of Title 23 U.S.C by extending PM activities eligible for Federal-aid highway. After each act, FHWA issued appropriate guidance to the states advising them of this eligibility. Specifically, in 2002, FHWA advised the use of Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (HBRRP) funds on PM activities for Federal-aid highway using systematic process.

In 2008, the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) Technical Correction Bill changed HBRRP to the Highway Bridge Program (HBP) and added systematic PM as an eligible activity. Bridge owners have taken advantage of the flexibilities in the HBP and have maintained their inventory in good to fair condition under constrained resources.

I understand that the new Bridge Preservation Guide is part of the Strategic Objectives. Could you comment about it?

The original Bridge Preservation Guide was published by FHWA in August 2011, when SAFETEA-LU was in effect and bridge repair and rehabilitation activities were funded by the Highway Bridge Program. This guide identified a “systematic process” as an eligibility of preventative maintenance (PM) actions for Federal aid funds. As a result, several Divisions signed agreements with their states as part of the stewardship and oversight agreements. These activities were not consistent among the Divisions.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act allowed preservation activities to be eligible and there was a need to update the guidance and come up with a comprehensive list of PM activities for consistency throughout the country. Also, routine maintenance was never defined for bridges and what activities qualify as routine that are not eligible for Federal funds. The new guide that we released earlier this year (Ed Note:see linkage) provides those example activities as well. In addition, it provides guidance on how to establish a bridge preservation program if an agency desires to build one.

What are the other actions/programs that are being developed?

We are developing a series of pocket guides that will provide a focus on construction quality. Some of the topics that are currently being developed are: Thin Polymer Overlay Systems; Small Movement Bridge Expansion Joints; Bridge Cleaning; and Removal and Replacement of Bridge Coatings.

These guides are designed to address common errors and best practices to aid in preventing failures related to proper selection and application procedures. They are also 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; and,
  • identify potential failure mechanisms and how to avoid them.

The pocket guides will be electronic, posted on the TSP2 website, and will also be accessible via iOS and Android App. We hope to post the Thin Polymer Overlay Guide by November, and others are being reviewed by the group.

Another action item that we are currently working on is the “Deck Preservation Portal.” This project initiated from an original idea of developing a Transportation Asset Preservation Portal. The goal is to establish a web portal for repository of proven preservation actions to maintain bridges in good and fair condition. After discussions with BPETG members, it was decided to first develop a proof of concept focusing just on concrete bridge decks. The Deck Preservation Portal will be organized by component defect, cause, feasible actions, and cost information. FHWA is supporting the development and Iowa DOT is leading the project. We have formed a Technical Advisory Committee to lead this effort and plan to complete the project by fall 2020. The outcome of this project will be rolled into a pooled-fund project to develop the Transportation Asset Preservation Portal.

We are also working on providing guidance to bridge owners in the formation, execution, and evaluation of bridge preservation programs so as to meet their unique needs. FHWA has contracted with the University of Colorado to “Determine Agency Rules for Bridge Preservation: Developing a Decision Methodology.” The objectives of this project are to: 1) Compile the existing rules used by state DOTs, and 2) Develop a method for formation of decision rules for bridge preservation. This guidance appears to be essential for owners to reach MAP-21 and FAST Act requirements for maintaining infrastructures in a state of good repair at minimum cost. Bridges are complex structures with interdependent components for which a strategic use of bridge preservation actions is required.

The BPETG strategic plan that we developed in 2016 is almost three years old. As we continue to complete action items that we initially identified, we are also in discussions to update this plan to meet the current needs.


FHWA 2018 Bridge Preservation Webpage


FHWA 2018 Bridge Preservation Guide


A Conversation with Rod Thornton of MDOT – SHA

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Second from the right: Rod Thornton with MDOT-SHA

Rod Thornton is the Maryland Department of Transportation – State Highway Administration’s (MDOT-SHA) Deputy Director of Structure Inspection and Remedial Engineering Division.  In addition to his responsibilities with MDOT-SHA, he is active with TSP2 being the Vice-Chair of the Northeast Bridge Preservation Partnership Committee. I had the opportunity to ask Rod a few questions about bridge preservation strategies at Maryland DOT.

What does bridge preservation entail at MDOT-SHA?

It is comprised of a number of programs that are all directed to preserving the integrity of the original bridges and eliminating emergency repairs.

A key program concerns bridge painting. The program, which advertises $12 million worth of painting projects every year, does not simply entail painting steel structural elements, but it also includes repairing deteriorated critical areas of the girders by plating, replacing leaking joint seals, and installing troughs under roadway joints.  This type of preservation work is included into the paint contract since paint scaffolding provides easy access to the areas to be repaired. By performing preservation work in parallel with painting, we eliminate the need to return to do these repairs in a following stage, which results in less of an impact to traffic and cost savings.  Funds above $12 million are added to the paint program in order to perform preservation activities.

Plating over severely deteriorated areas of a structural element, such as a beam, preserves the structural integrity of the element but also improves how long the paint system will last. The new “retrofit” plate provides a smooth surface that can be prepped to have the correct profile for proper paint adhesion. It is well-known that the long-term adhesion of a paint primer may be prevented if rust and other imperfections are not completely removed during the blast cleaning process and a proper profile of the blasted steel is not achieved. A good adhesion of the primer is essential for the intermediate coat and final coat to work.  Plating over the pitted areas of a beam with new steel allows for the creation of a good paintable surface profile, which in turn increases the longevity of the paint system. In areas that are subjected to a lot of moisture, like finger joints, the non-structural “retrofit” plates provide a layer of sacrificial steel while improving the adhesion of the paint.

Our paint program performs well, beyond the expected 20 years of steel protection. We are getting anywhere from 25 to 30 years out of the program.  The color of the top coat may fade, but the paint system still provides the steel protection that is needed to prevent corrosion.

Another important bridge preservation program at MD-SHA entails the use of latex-modified concrete overlays in order to preserve the deck thus avoiding or delaying its replacement.  The process starts with an evaluation of the chloride levels at the various depths of the deck. If a deck is in fair condition with concentration of chlorides near or just beneath the top mat of the deck reinforcement, we remove chloride-contaminated areas through hydrodemolition and we then cast a new latex-modified concrete overlay.  Since the early ‘70s, MDOT-SHA has required both the bottom and top rebar mats to be epoxy coated. Epoxy protects bars from corrosion induced by chlorides thus making it possible to reconstruct parts of the deck rather than replacing it.

MDOT-SHA is currently working to determine the best preservation actions for the old deck parapets that have high chloride concentration. We are looking into new types of sealers that contain chloride inhibitors to treat these parapets when the deck is partially reconstructed using latex-modified concrete thus preventing their replacement.

Another top preservation program at MD-SHA entails the installation of troughs under roadway joints where the seal is in NBI condition state 4 and 3.  We have set up a dedicated “open-ended” contract that allows us to assign a number of bridges to a contractor and get the trough installed once a bridge is identified. We also have a dedicated “open-ended” contract that allows us to wrap and strengthen the concrete structural elements of the substructure, such as caps and columns, with E-glass fiber reinforcement and coat these surfaces with an aliphatic polyurethane coating. Typically, we only wrap columns that are close, or adjacent, to roadways, thus creating a permanent water barrier from the salt spray generated by vehicles traveling past.

Since roadway joints are a source of deterioration for many elements of the substructure, such as bearings and beam ends, our newly designed bridges are built with no roadway joints or in a very limited number.

The last preservation program I would like to mention entails improving the protection of the steel tendons placed at the bottom of pre-stressed girders. We require a 4” clearance from the outside face of the girder instead of just meeting the 3” concrete cover required by AASHTO.  The additional clearance ensures that the tendons get adequately covered with concrete. There are known tolerances in casting of pre-stressed members that could end up reducing the cover of steel tendons that are close to the exterior surface.  We also include a design modification that increases the slope of the bottom flanges of AASHTO concrete girders so as to prevent accumulation of debris, bird droppings or bird nests.

Could you outline the key points of the bridge preservation strategy at Maryland SHA?

I would summarize the strategy in three points.  The first one involves the evaluation of Structurally Deficient (SD) and Fair rated bridges on the entire highway system with the goal to properly intervene on SD bridges and to prevent Fair rated bridges from becoming SD.  Every year two managers, one from the design and the other from the maintenance side of the bridge office, visit all bridges that are rated SD and also those bridges that had been rated 5 for one or more items (deck, superstructure, or the substructure) for more than 10 years. Once all these bridges have been looked at, we determine whether they are candidates for maintenance actions, preservation activities, major rehabilitation, or replacement. In doing so, we monitor all bridges that are in bad condition and determine actions to be implemented and scheduled.

A second element of the strategy entails examining common design or construction details that cause maintenance issues or are linked to potential deterioration problems.  If in the inspection reports there are details that show the presence of a recurring bridge defect, then proper recommendations are made to the designers so as to eliminate it. As an example, in the 1960s they used to weld stiffeners halfway from the top to the bottom of steel girders’ diaphragms. Once we recognized that these stiffeners induced fatigue cracking over 10 – 15 years, we informed the design team so as to find a more effective solution. A recurrent issue entails the accelerated deterioration that we experience with galvanized corrugated metal pipes used to carry water runoff with high concentrations of chlorides. There are many more examples of issues found in the field resulting in design changes, such as poorly performing roadway joint systems, multi plank bridge deck details, and parapet details.  Through the constant communication with the design office we were able to improve what is being designed for our new bridges.

The third element of our strategy calls for an actual and effective communication between the bridge design team and the office I am in charge of, which entails inspection, construction, and engineering design for maintenance.  We are in constant communication and we work together to decide whether bridges should be preserved thorough minor rehabilitation, major rehabilitation or replacement.  In principle, we can save and keep any bridge if enough money is available, but there are cases where it is not economical to rehabilitate a bridge.  When we decide to make a major investment to rehabilitate a bridge, the design team should agree that no future plans are going to be made to replace or enhance that bridge.  On the opposite, if the design team programs a bridge for replacement, then the maintenance team will focus on safety repairs only, since there is no reason to spend money on a bridge that will not be around for much longer.  Maintenance preservation actions are a priority for those bridges that are intended to be kept in service for a long time.  A lot of engineering judgement and experience is requested to know when to intervene and perform repairs and where we may have capacity and safety issues, such as beams not capable to carry the load or pieces of concrete falling on vehicles, if we do not intervene. This mix of engineering knowledge and experience is an essential component to ensure public safety, which is our most important goal.

What are your bridge preservation goals, both short and long term?

Our short term bridge preservation goal is to comply with the Governor’s mandate to reduce the number of Structurally Deficient bridges to zero. We are going to achieve this goal by combining repair, rehabilitation, and design actions. (Ed. Note: Out of the 2567 bridges managed by Maryland SHA, 67 are classified as Structurally Deficient, corresponding to 3% of the total).

Extending the service life of bridges is our long-term goal. If we can get 20 more years from a bridge by doing preservation actions, it makes sense to perform them.  Preservation actions can vary. If a bridge has a deck that is in fair condition with 20 more years of life in it, we focus on the key bridge elements that may need preservation, such as beams and substructure. If we prolong the service life of these elements, we eliminate the need to replace the bridge in the short term and can wait until the deck needs to be replaced. By bringing bridges to Fair or better condition, we extend their service life and have time to focus on those bridges that are in critical conditions and cannot be expected to last long without a large capital investments. We perform holding actions to ensure the safety of the traveling public.

Which challenges have Maryland SHA encountered in the implementation of the bridge preservation strategy?

We have an issue with environmental permitting, which is an impediment for pressure washing.

Other States have been able to get an agreement with their environmental people, for example scheduling power washing during heavy rain. In Maryland we can power wash only a limited number of bridges provided that we collect water.  Grime, grit, debris, and oils pollute water during power washing thus making water a hazardous material that is cost-prohibited to collect. As a consequence, it is difficult for us to maintain clean critical structural elements, such as trusses, that collect a lot of debris.

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

In addition to the paint program, of which I have already spoken, I would like to mention the paved pipe invert contract.

We have restored over 300 galvanized corrugated metal pipes by installing a new reinforced grout invert.  The hoop design of the pipe is re-established by this structural design methodology which essentially consists of welding steel reinforcing bars in a pattern longitudinally and transversely along the inside length of the pipe and then pouring a 4” thick concrete grout invert over top. By adopting this methodology, we have repaired pipes anywhere from 3 ft to 20 ft in diameter located under major Interstates or throughout our highway system.  By not having to replace these pipes, we have saved a lot of money.  The typical cost of the grout repair method is $40/SF, which is typically 20+ times less costly than replacement.  We started by paving the worst pipes and we will continue until we have paved 1300 + pipes.

In my opinion a big bridge preservation success story in Maryland is arriving to the point of having sustained funding. We have always had funding for maintenance and repair, but it was a one-shot approach. We now have funding that allows for broadening the use of preservation actions and setting up systematic programs. The recent gas tax imposed by the State has been a tremendous windfall for the highway program in Maryland. It has allowed us to focus on the Governor’s goals to achieve zero SD bridges and to perform all improvements that are going on in the entire highway system here in Maryland.

How can TSP2 assist you with reaching your bridge preservation goals?

TSP2 is giving me a unique opportunity to develop personal relationships in the bridge preservation community. I can connect with representatives from other States to find out what their programs are like, what processes they follow, and what products they use.

All States are trying to achieve common bridge preservation goals as cost effectively as possible and with the least impact to the travelling public. TSP2 provides the means to achieve these goals by learning and replicating what the different States have done successfully.



NCHRP Project 20 68A, Scan 15-03

Successful Preservation Practices For Steel Bridge Coatings



SHA Paved Invert Specifications