The recent rains in Texas have forced many lakes and rivers to flood stage, highlighting the importance of the bridge research the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) is conducting with funding from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Currently, 600 of the 40,000 bridges in Texas are on the ‘scour-critical list,’ which pinpoints those bridges that could be at the highest risk for failure due to erosion. However, “the criteria used to classify a bridge in this category is highly conservative and may not be accurate based on what we’ve already determined through our studies and extensive research in the laboratory,” says Jean-Louis Briaud, manager of TTI’s Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Program. “We are developing a simple methodology that will be much more accurate in predicting erosion around bridge pilings.”
The new method of scour prediction could result in the removal of some of the bridges currently on the scour-critical list. A second part of the research will begin in September and will involve placing monitors at some of the most critical bridge locations to measure erosion.
“I want to make it clear that no matter how a bridge is constructed, obtaining a zero-percent risk of failure is not possible. There are simply too many variables. But with research, we can more accurately determine those bridges that are indeed at the greatest risk,” Briaud said.