A University of Missouri professor will decide what work will keep Columbia’s bridges in good shape for a longer period of time.
Columbia Public Works will split the cost with the federal Midwest Transportation Center to study the 42 bridges and nearly 100 other crossings Columbia maintains. Engineer specialist Seth Nelson said the city will use the inspection data compiled to develop a maintenance timeline, and a cost-effective way to extend the “life” of a bridge.
“We could build a bridge and just not touch it, and it would last for twenty years,” Nelson told ABC 17 News. “But if we did some preventative maintenance on it, we might get fifty or sixty years out of the bridge that was built for twenty years.”
Dr. Glenn Washer, a civil engineering professor at MU who specializes in “non-destructive” methods of inspecting and fixing bridges, will perform the work. Dr. Washer, whom Nelson worked for as a graduate student in 2013, said he will visually inspect the ways the different bridges in Columbia are built, and the different problems they have.
“Repairs to things like decks are expensive, and they disrupt traffic,” Dr. Washer said. “So, the guidebook that we’ll try to develop for them will give them actions they can take in the interim that will extend the life of bridges, and delay that type of repair.”
Columbia’s exclusive use of road salt to combat icy roads also can quickly deteriorate the metal in those crossings, both Nelson and Dr. Washer said. When water washes the salt into the metal joists and into cracks in the road, the combination corrodes the beams.
MoDOT performs inspections on Columbia’s 42 crossings 20-feet and longer, Nelson said. While the inspections help them realize problems, such as issues on Ridgemont Bridge off College Park and Ridgemont Drive, Nelson characterized the changes made as “reactive.” For Ridgemont, Nelson said the city lowered the weight limit to five tons last year, and are working with a consultant to find the best ways to fix it. Nelson said Dr. Washer’s work will help them decide what methods of “preventative” maintenance they can do on the crossings within the city’s means, rather than relying on a third-party company to perform the work, such as deck flushing and pavement sealing.
The contract will last until December 2016.