London Bridge may be falling down, according to a popular children’s song, but a WVU professor is making sure this same fate doesn’t befall timber railroad bridges in West Virginia.

Dr. Hota GangaRao, director of the Constructed Facilities Center at WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and a civil and environmental engineering professor, was awarded $53,965 for a research project involving the use of glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) composite materials to rehabilitate timber railroad bridges.

The WV Department of Transportation (WVDOT) and the WV State Rail Authority awarded this money after GangaRao’s team tested various rehabilitation methods on an 80-year-old open-deck- timber Railroad Bridge on the South Branch Valley Railroad owned by WVDOT in Moorefield, WV.

Using an 80-ton locomotive for static and dynamic tests, the research team found that the rehabilitated bridge showed a significant reduction in strain.

In conjunction with this award, GangaRao won a contract from WVDOT to rehabilitate 10 bridges using this new technology. After rehabilitating these timber bridges, they will be monitored for their long term field performance which will be funded by the United States Department of Transportation- Federal Railroad Administration. In addition, this new technology will be extended to railroad brides operated and maintained by private industry in West Virginia.

“This new technology is significant because rehabilitating an old bridge costs only ten percent of what it costs to build a new bridge. Also there is no interruption of traffic during rehabilitation,” noted GangaRao. “Finally, the end product is stronger than a brand-new conventional product.”

GangaRao, the principal investigator worked with PV Vijay and Mark Skidmore as co investigators.

WVDOT’s mission is to create and maintain for the people of West Virginia, the United States and the world a multi-modal and inter-modal transportation system that supports the safe, effective and efficient movement of people, information and goods that enhances the opportunity for people and communities to enjoy environmentally sensitive and economically sound development.

The West Virginia State Rail Authority is a division of WVDOT.


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