A 2011 report released by Transportation for America ranked West Virginia’s bridges as the eighth worst in the nation. According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 70,000 bridges nationwide are classified as structurally deficient. But despite federal and state attempts to introduce bridge repair programs on a nationwide scale, the combination of budget constraints and a steep increase in the number of aging bridges has prevented any real progress.

Enter West Virginia University’s Hota GangaRao, director of constructed facilities center and professor at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Far from a rookie, GangaRao has built his career around researching and studying structural deterioration and rehabilitation.

GangaRao’s most recent research centers on studying the durability and stability of pultruded and infused fiber reinforced polymers, or FRPs. GangaRao has received a $200,000 grant to conduct this research over a four year period from the National Science Foundation.

The idea is to establish the limits of the materials’ stability to better estimate the long term cost-effeciency of using advanced composites, GangaRao said. “These composites have been implemented in bridges, buildings, highway pavements, utility poles and so on,” he said.

FRPs are easy to implement and cost effective, which is why this may become the preferred method to rehabilitate hundreds of concrete bridges throughout the state and nation.

“We need to determine the service life of the bridges by gathering data from the field,” GangaRao said. “We intend to conduct accelerated testing under lab conditions by increasing temperature and pressure and decreasing time. Then, correlate that lab data with the field data of bridges that have been aging over the past 16 years so that I can properly calibrate field aging with accelerated lab aging in the form of a very simple mathematical coefficient for design purposes.”

To do that, GangaRao will evaluate various structures, at least 50 of which are in West Virginia, that have been in service for several years under varying environmental conditions.

“Past experience has shown that we can renovate buildings and bridges and other structures using our techniques at a cost of 25 to 30 percent of construction costs of building new structures,” GangaRao said. “This is why the Department of Transportation will be adopting this method of wrapping extensively in the next five years.”



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon
304-293-4086; mary.dillon@mail.wvu.edu