SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — A partnership between Lawrence Technology University and the Michigan Department of Transportation is helping develop a new way to build bridges in the Mitten state.
Currently there are around 1,100 bridges in Michigan that are currently rated in poor condition. Part of the issues? Salt water seeping into the bridges through cracks and corroding the steel enforcement.
That is where carbon fiber steps in. The material does not corrode under the same weather conditions.
Got a cool Getting Around Metro Detroit story for you this morning! @LawrenceTechU teaming up with @MichiganDOT to start using carbon fiber while building bridges! I'll explain the benefits in detail at 6:40 a.m. on @wxyzdetroit pic.twitter.com/m6J2d6CQDB— Ali Hoxie (@ali_hoxie) October 14, 2020
“Our job is to try to find the alternative for the steal bars and come up with good material that will last 100 years,” said Dean College of Engineering Nabil Grace.
Grace has been working on studying this material since the 1990s. Just recently, it received national recognition, receiving the American Association of State Highway Transportation Sweet 16 top projects of 2020.
So far, carbon fiber has been used in 13 different bridges in Michigan. There are plans to build two more carbon fiber bridges in the future, both on bridges a part of the I-94 Modernization project.
Chief Bridge Engineer for MDOT Matt Chynoweth says carbon fiber comes with a highway price tag higher than steel but lasts longer.
“The materials are more expensive up front obviously when you are dealing with a new material that doesn’t have the market saturation that a tradition material does, you are going to pay a premium for it which we are, however if you don’t have to work on the bridge for 25, 35 or even 50 years, the next generation is going to realize those savings,” said Chynoweth.