Beyond Engineering: The Politics of Maracaibo

by Rafael Manzanarez, Principal; T. Y. Lin International, San Francisco, CA,
Charles Seim, (F.ASCE), Senior Principal; T. Y. Lin International, San Francisco, CA,
Dennis Smith, Assoc. Prof.; Elliott School of Communications at Wichita State Univ., Wichita, KS,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1991, Vol. 61, Issue 3, Pg. 60-62

Document Type: Feature article


The Lake Maracaibo Bridge in Venezuela was built in 1959. It ranks as one of the largest and longest bridges in the world at the time it was built and contained the longest concrete cable-stayed spans in the world. The bridge inspection and structural inspection recently completed by T. Y. Lin International, dramatically illustrates the challenges and limitations facing engineers today as they work to preserve older bridge structures. The comprehensive investigation included bridge inspection and the collection and analysis of test data; development of structural evaluation criteria; development of a computer structural model; a stress analysis of various bridge components; a load rating analysis using actual truck weights; a fatigue analysis of the stay cables and a corrosion analysis of the piles and caps. The study revealed that the start of cable corrosion as the most urgent and immediate problem to be addressed to prevent further irreversible damage. Trucks regularly using the bridge weigh about five times the design truck weight and have produced distress in some elements of the bridge. The study recommended the creation of an organization responsible for controlling truck weights allowed on the bridge, performing inspections and routine maintenance and repair of the structure. To support the effort T. Y. Lin International is now in the process of preparing a Maintenance and Operations Manual for the institution of a maintenance program.

Subject Headings: Cables | Stress analysis | Cable stayed bridges | Bridge-vehicle interaction | Inspection | Bridge components | Trucks | Bridge tests | Venezuela | South America

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