The State of PA's Bridges, Part 3: Inspecting and Managing Them More Efficiently

Dec 10, 2014

Steve Haluska inspects the floor beams of the second level of the Fort Pitt Bridge in Pittsburgh.
Credit Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

This is the third story of a three-part series on the state's bridges.

About seven years ago, the Bridge Maintenance Engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Lee Floyd, was concerned about one of his bridge’s ability to hold up while a replacement was built. He placed sensors on the bridge to monitor how it behaved and found that actually he could keep it open without any temporary repairs.

“If we had not sensored we probably would’ve gone ahead and spent the money to repair the bridge,” Floyd said. “But by using the sensors it gave a sense of assurance and safety and we were able to avoid that extra expenditure.”

He estimated he saved $700,000 in unnecessary repairs on that bridge. Since then, Floyd has embraced these sensors, which produce detailed information on how a bridge is moving and reacting to everything from traffic to wind. He now uses them on other bridges as a kind of structural health monitoring tool, to make management decisions about the state’s bridges.

Read a full version of this report at the website of Keystone Crossroads, a new statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities.