Dam-It Dams: Why the U.S. has a Bridge Maintenance Problem

Dam-It Dams: Why the U.S. has a Bridge Maintenance Problem

Nearly 40% of bridges in the United States need repair or preservation work. It’s not that the problem hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed, as a $500B infrastructure package was recently passed to combat aging structures, with bridges being some of the most neglected areas nationwide. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the health of our bridges has been on the decline for the past five years.

New technologies, such as high-performance concrete and more robust, more structurally sound steel, are used in new bridge construction and repair to meet a 75-year usable life. This standard, which is now part of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official’s plan to raise functional life from 50 years, is still being modified and perfected. The adoption of other state-of-the-art monitoring, such as “living bridges,” uses sensors to give real-time data on the effects of corrosion, weather, traffic, and other factors to further engineers’ ability to prioritize repairs and replacements as needed. Given the massive scale and cost at which these repairs or construction projects can take on, strategic asset management is a necessary part of the civil infrastructure of every state as a means of more excellent public safety and cost reduction.

The Issues Behind Bridge Repair Work

With federal spending declining, finding a way to pay for infrastructure projects has been a significant obstacle. From 2003 to 2017, adjusted for inflation, there has been a 20 percent decrease in federal spending on transportation and water infrastructure, according to the Congressional Budget Office. To meet the goal of completing the overall backlog of bridge repair, an annual increase in repair budgets of $8B would be needed, along with a time investment of over 50 years to conduct the repairs. Those figures don’t include the current rate of deterioration on structurally sound bridges.

Luckily, preventative maintenance and more robust, more advanced building materials have allowed our bridges to have a longer usable life, even in the short term. However, as weather patterns continue to shift and change, along with increased demand on our bridges to maintain the current and increased traffic numbers associated with interstate commerce and travel, how long their life is anyone’s guess. Engineers are fighting this inevitability with incredible bridge replacement and repair innovations like railroad flat car bridges, geosynthetic reinforced soil, vibratory H-piling drivers, buried soil structures, all-steel piers, galvanized H-piling, press brake tub girders, and more.

These innovations are precious in curtailing the economic impact of bridge repair and replacement but are only one-half of the solution. The other is skilled labor and construction access to these projects, which are at times in very inaccessible locations creating an even more significant challenge. Bridge construction and repair sites often take weeks to prepare, not including the proper permitting and approvals. This means delays and the unfortunate reality of further potential damage, traffic delays, and the like. These factors increase repair and replacement costs, which can cause many of these projects to quickly exceed the defined budget and scope, neither of which is ideal.

Inflatable Cofferdams for Bridge Maintenance and Reconstruction Work

Several methods are available to create a water-free area to work, but inflatable cofferdams are by far the most versatile and, therefore, the most useful. They are 100% reusable, which makes them not only a highly cost-effective solution but also makes them environmentally friendly.

At Dam-It-Dams, we help ensure bridge construction and repair projects stay on time and, most importantly, on budget by allowing safe, dry worksites in some of the most extreme and harsh conditions. Using modular and rapidly deployed cofferdam solutions ensures uptime and enables our construction partners to succeed in worksites where traditional dewatering methods are not feasible. It’s the solution we’ve refined and perfected over the past 25 years and why we continue to meet the needs of our clients worldwide. We invite you to contact us to see the difference a Dam-It Dams inflatable cofferdam can make in keeping your bridge construction dry, safe, and moving forward.