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Engineers Win T.Y. Lin Award for Precast Bridge Bent System for Use in High-Seismic Regions

The T. Y. Lin Award recognizes papers that contribute to the field of prestressed concrete.

Though a good bridge can decrease congestion and speed traffic in the long run, the construction of bridges can cause traffic delays—leading to long waits, wasted fuel, unhappy commuters, and possible safety risks to the travelling public. As a result, finding ways to accelerate bridge construction is eagerly sought after by transportation agencies. Prefabricated bridge bents are widely used in non-earthquake-prone areas to reduce construction time and increase both worker and traveler safety; but in high-seismic areas, such as Washington and California, such construction is not robust enough to justify its deployment.

However, a recent paper documented an innovation—from the inception to the implementation stage—that enables the use of prefabricated bents even in high-earthquake-prone areas. “Accelerated Bridge Construction in Washington State: From Research to Practice,” published in the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Journal, was authored by Lee Marsh, president and chief executive officer of BergerABAM, as part of a development team that included Bijan Khaleghi and Eric Schultz of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT); Stephen Seguirant of Concrete Technology Corporation (CTC); and Olafur Haraldsson, Marc Eberhard, and John Stanton of the University of Washington. For this, the team was the recipients of the 2014 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) T.Y. Lin Award.

The method was developed and tested at the University of Washington in Seattle. An opportunity to put this method into practice presented itself in the form of a bridge replacement project crossing Interstate 5 in Washington State. Among other findings, the overall project revealed that the precast bent system can withstand the rigors of seismic loading (as observed in the laboratory); the system is constructible and cost-effective (as observed in the field); and a broad-based collaborating team of owners, engineers, researchers, precasters, and contractors can deliver an effective system for earthquake-prone regions that is ready to use today.

The initial system research was funded by WSDOT with the final development and documentation of the precast bent system supported by a Technology Partnership grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Highways for LIFE program. Construction of the demonstration bridge was funded by WSDOT, and the bridge was constructed by Tri-State Construction and CTC.

The T.Y. Lin Award given by the ASCE Professor T.Y. Lin, an eminent prestressed concrete pioneer, was endowed to ASCE in 1968 to recognize outstanding engineers and their contributions to the field of prestressed concrete. The award is presented each year to the best paper written or coauthored by members of ASCE in the various publications of ASCE, PCI, and the American Concrete Institute during a 12-month period.

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