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New building material may make bridge maintenance easier

Posted On Wed, January 30, 2013

While it may not have a direct impact on car insurance quotes, implementing bridge improvements may help lessen the wear and tear automobiles experience when traveling over these spans of highway, lengthening the life cycle of the average vehicle.

Thanks to a recent analysis performed by researchers from Purdue University, road and highway construction workers may soon be able to use a high-performance concrete more broadly that engineers believe will lengthen the lifespan of bridges.

Jason Weiss, director of civil engineering at Purdue's Pankow Materials Laboratory, said that this development could be a huge boon for Indiana's infrastructure as well as the nation if more states adopt this type of concrete.

"This material will reduce maintenance costs and allow bridge decks to last longer," said Weiss. "Our testing indicates that internally cured high-performance concrete experiences substantially less cracking and concrete damage caused by deicing salt and, when properly designed, the service life of bridge decks can be greatly extended."

Troy Woodruff, chief of staff at the Indiana Department of Transportation - which Purdue partnered with when performing the research - said that the Hoosier State will not only benefit, but so will its motorists, as less maintenance will likely translate into a smaller number of traffic jams and delays caused by repair workers.

More widespread use of the concrete could be in the offing, as it has already been used in the construction of a bridge in Indiana's Monroe County. Researchers are observing how it performs and withstands the elements over the next several years compared to another bridge that was built at the same time but with standard concrete material.

The American Society of Civil Engineers says that conventional bridges are built to last half a century. However, the average bridge in the U.S. today typically lasts 43 years before it's in need of significant work, based on data from the Department of Transportation.

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