Faster, stronger and greener elements need to be part of bridge construction in the U.S., accomplished through fast-track project-delivery methods, Accelerated Bridge Construction techniques or alternative materials, according to a variety of industry officials.

Fiber-reinforced polymers (FRPs) could contribute to all those themes, said speakers at the International Bridge Conference held in Pittsburgh on June 14-17. “The ABC mantra is ‘Get in, get out and stay out,’” noted David White, marketing manager with Sika Corp., Lyndhurst, N.J., a manufacturer of FRP components. “FRPs will fit all of that, especially the ‘stay out.’”

But the higher initial cost of installing composite materials is still a challenge, especially in an era of tight budgets, speakers concurred. “It is a hard sell. The departments of transportation know...that they will last forever, but they just can’t do it,” said John R. Hillman, founder and president of HC Bridge Co. LLC, Chicago. It is supplying composite-hybrid beams for projects in New Jersey and Maine (see story above).

Mark Henderson, principal with LJB Inc., Dayton, Ohio, says a new set of American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials specifications for pedestrian bridges using FRPs is now out and for the most part reflect existing steel specs. Future specs are in the works for specifying FRPs in traffic bridge decks.

Scott Snelling, engineer with New York City-based Hardesty and Hanover LLP, proposed that FRPs, warm-mix asphalt and pozzolan cements be part of a checklist for “green” bridges akin to the LEED standards for buildings. Project-delivery methods, allowances for multimodal options and long-term maintenance considerations would also be part of such a checklist, he said.