ECE professor Dean Neikirk just received funding for a 5-year program to use wireless sensors to identify failing bridges, lower the cost of monitoring those bridges, and improve the safety of new bridges. The $6.8M project addresses a chronic problem for the aging American highway infrastructure.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, deferred maintenance has left one-quarter of the nation’s bridges deficient. Congress mandated 2-year inspections in 1971, but at least 17,000 bridges did not meet the requirement in 2008, including 3 out of every 100 freeway bridges. The wireless sensor system being developed by Dr. Neikirk and principal investigator UT Civil Engineering Chairman Sharon Wood will make real-time monitoring possible for fracture-critical bridges (i.e., bridges in which one failing component could bring the entire bridge down), and lower the cost and time required for all bridge inspections.