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Making our infrastructure safer, longer

Three people in a lift, under a bridge.
October 2, 2019

UMD's civil engineering researchers are working to improve aging roads and bridges.

Aging roads and bridges are a growing challenge everywhere, including the Twin Ports. And UMD’s civil engineering researchers are going to the source, 100 feet up, to collect bridge load data to help determine how to extend the serviceability of the Blatnik Bridge.

Just over ten years ago, the 1-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, turning a harsh spotlight on our country’s transportation framework. Swenson College of Science and Engineering, Minnesota Department of Transportation and WSP consulting company teamed up to conduct overnight testing on the bridge.

UMD Professor Ben Dymond’s research and teaching focus on the resiliency of reinforced and prestressed concrete infrastructure and structural systems. This passion emerges from his early work on the Federal Highway Administration’s Long-Term Bridge Performance Program. “I pursue this interest in a number of directions such as short- and long-term field monitoring experiments, including our work on the Blatnik Bridge,” says Dymond

Dymond and his student team rode construction equipment to attach test sensors to the high bridge’s underbelly. The sensors measured how the weight of heavy trucks loads transferred through the bridge structure. The results, built into models, will help both Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation determine the best choices for the bridge’s structural maintenance.