Bridges Under Surveillance

by Paul Tarricone, Assistant Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 5, Pg. 48-51

Document Type: Feature article


Although bridge monitoring is still in its infancy, research, pilot studies and field work are underway across the country. While today it's still a pie-in-the-sky goal, the prototypical bridge monitoring system will provide continuous, long-term, global surveillance of a bridge (or other critical structure). Ideally, a bell or light will go off when structural failure is imminent. The need for this type of system is two-fold. With some 41% of the nation's bridges either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, bridge monitoring can help prevent disaster. But perhaps more important, bridge instrumentation can indicate when a bridge is not on the verge of crumbling. This can help save money wasted on unnecessary bridge repairs, replacements and closures. Bridge monitoring has evolved--especially over the last five years--in response to criticism of traditional bridge inspection. Visual inspection leads to over-conservative bridge rating, some say, while conventional, empirical bridge analysis (the so-called cookbook method), employs only two-dimensional analysis and doesn't treat the structure as a whole.

Subject Headings: Two-dimensional analysis | Structural analysis | Bridges | Bridge tests | Inspection | Continuous structures | Failure analysis | Structural failures

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