Infrastructure Technology Institute Selected for U.S. DOT Research Day

The Infrastructure Technology Institute (ITI) at Northwestern University was selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Research Technology Transfer Day on April 6.

The event, which took place at the DOT headquarters in Washington, D.C., highlighted research projects funded by the DOT that have been or are in the process of being deployed into the marketplace or impacting policy. The event included poster sessions, remarks by Transportation  Secretary Ray LaHood, and panel discussions about research.

Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, ITI develops advanced methods for monitoring infrastructure condition and performance to assist owners and operators with critical decisions concerning structural integrity, renewal, and rehabilitation.

At the event, ITI presented their research on advanced techniques for retrofit performance and reliability monitoring on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge in Louisville, Kentucky. Since 2007, ITI has used advanced computer-controlled sensing systems for real-time measurement of critical engineering quantities have provided important insight for detection and repair of corrosion-related failures of uplift bearing components, helping keep this bridge of both regional and national importance in good repair and safe for the 120,000 vehicles that cross it daily.

Sensors on uplift bearing components measure strain, movement, and temperature at key locations on both the original bearing assembly and retrofits. A computer-controlled data logger on the bridge records data and transmits it back to the lab.

On the evening of September 29, 2008, the structural health monitoring system measured a large, sudden shift in strain measurements on an uplift bearing anchor rod, suggesting that the rod had fractured. ITI researchers in the Chicago-area lab reviewed the data and promptly alerted the bridge owner. Upon inspection, the rod was found to be completely severed. Without monitoring, no one could have known about the fracture until the next routine inspection - even then, the fracture would have been nearly invisible, as the paint remained intact.

The goal of this research is to develop structural health monitoring systems that can be deployed readily by state DOTs and other transportation infrastructure owners.