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WVU-led research team earns top honors for bridge construction system

A photo of Karl Barth and members of his research team.

A research team led by Karl Barth (third from left) has captured top honors for its bridge construction system.


A cost-effective bridge construction system developed by researchers at West Virginia University has won an award for technological advancement from the National Steel Bridge Alliance.

Karl Barth, Samples Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WVU, and his former doctoral student, Greg Michaelson, now an assistant professor in the Weisberg Division of Engineering at Marshall University, were recognized for their work on a folded steel gate girder bridge in Muskingum County, Ohio. The researchers created a new type of tub girder that requires less fabrication and installation time than conventional bridge systems. The pair worked in conjunction with the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance.

“The system uses modular galvanized trapezoidal boxes fabricated from cold-bent structural-steel plates that can be constructed using either galvanized or weathering steel,” said Barth. “There are a variety of potential decking options including pre-cast deck panels and pre-topped girders joined with Ultra High Performance Concrete closure joints that can be used on an all-steel solution consisting of a steel sandwich plate deck.”

The solution, which SSSBA estimates can account for as much as a 50 percent reduction in fabrication costs compared to other traditional plate girder systems, saved the community from a lengthy closure. The bridge’s shallow superstructure and lack of a horizontal surface is also a benefit to the owner because of the structure’s location over a stream that is prone to flooding.

The technique has been deployed on two of bridges since 2016. Barth noted that two additional projects are currently underway in West Virginia with others planned in several states.

Sixteen steel bridge projects were recognized in the 2018 Prize Bridge Awards competition, which honors significant and innovative steel bridges constructed in the U.S. The award is the highest honor bestowed on bridge projects by the U.S. structural steel industry. The awards were presented to winners in nine categories covering an array of bridge types including: Major Span, Long Span, Medium Span, Short Span, Moveable Span, Reconstructed Bridge, Special Purpose, Integrated Project Delivery and Technological Advancement.

The winning bridges and their respective project team members will be recognized at the 2018 NASCC: The Steel Conference / World Steel Bridge Symposium, April 11-13, in Baltimore, Maryland.



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