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Flooding along Arizona’s highways caused road closures and significant damage. Credit: AZCentral.com

On Monday, Southern Arizona experienced its wettest day in recorded history.   Remnants from Hurricane Norbet mixed with pre-existing monsoon humidity to cause more than 3.25 total inches of rainfall in one day.  The region typically sees 2.71 inches of rain for the entire monsoon season, but on Monday alone, 2.96 inches had already fallen by 8:30 am, and the downpour didn’t let up all day.  Two people were killed while trying to escape the rushing waters, and more than 10,000 homes and businesses were left without power.  Whole sections of interstates  were washed away in Phoenix, and here in Tucson, high waters in the Santa Cruz River have threatened the structural integrity of all bridges along that river. The damage from Monday’s flood continues to mount as saturated soils create instability all around us.  And as the damage climbs, so does the repair bill.  On top of the countless homes and businesses that will have to be restored, bridges and entire sections of road will have to be rebuilt.  But this isn’t the first time that floods have caused so much damage to our transportation infrastructure, and sadly, it won’t be the last.
A bridge collapses in California during a massive flood. Credit: redding.com

In 1927, a flood in Vermont killed 84 people, left another 9,000 homeless, and destroyed 1,250 bridges.  An 1891 flood in Arizona collapsed a railroad bridge across the Salt River, causing provisions to run short during the 3-month repair process.  A 20-day flood in Oregon and Northern California in 1964 killed 19 and destroyed more than 20 major highway and county bridges, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.  But while many of these disasters occur without warning, preemptive efforts can prevent such terrible damage to our infrastructure.
Severe corrosion on the bridge columns.

One DOT recently decided to use carbon fiber to preemptively strengthen one of their highway bridges.  Tiny cracks had developed as a result of vibrations from daily traffic passing overhead.  Over time, water and oxygen had seeped into the cracks, causing them to expand and corrode the concrete and reinforcing steel rebar within.  The bridge had more than 60 corroded concrete columns; the columns were so corroded, in fact, that whole sections of concrete had fallen off, exposing corroded rebar all along.  The DOT realized that their bridge would collapse if something wasn’t done to strengthen it soon.  They chose to repair the bridge with HJ3’s carbon fiber. Before installing the HJ3 Civil™ system on the bridge columns, all the damaged concrete was removed with chipping hammers.  The exposed rebar was cleaned to near-white and protected.  Wood forms were constructed around the columns to encase a high-strength grout that was poured in place.  Finally, the resurfaced columns were primed, wrapped with HJ3’s carbon fiber fabric, and layered with a protective topcoat.
Restored columns are strong and corrosion-free.

The HJ3 Civil™ system successfully restored the columns’ shear and tensile capacities in only three weeks.  The DOT saved 50{f00316eaeff19fc4d3daa6454136ee4db9a0ad1868aa2a79e58a2db09827821d} compared to replacement costs, and the entire repair was completed with minimal road closures.  Thanks to HJ3’s system, the bridge is now corrosion-resistant, preventing the need for future maintenance.  Furthermore, repairing their bridge instead of replacing it saved months of downtime, as well as preventing more than a million gallons of water from being wasted in the construction of new columns.
If you have a bridge that requires strengthening, let us know!  Shoot us an email at Info@hj3.com.