SCDOT lands grant to help monitor bridges

The SCDOT has landed a federal grant to expand the use of technology to monitor some of the state’s bridges, including the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

The state Department of Transportation has landed an $800,000 federal grant to expand its use of technology to monitor the condition of the state’s bridges.

Lee Floyd, state bridge engineer, said the SCDOT already uses sensors to monitor three bridges, including the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. But the grant will allow the department to expand its use of the technology.

The SCDOT is one of six departments nationwide to receive a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to fund demonstration programs for innovative road and bridge work to improve safety. The grant comes from the agency’s Accelerated Innovation Deployment program.

Floyd said the sensors measure strain at different points on a bridge and transfer that information to a site on the Internet. That enables him to complement a visual inspection of a bridge by looking at data on his smartphone.

The grant will be used to monitor up to 50 bridges, Floyd said. That list hasn’t yet been finalized, he said. “We’re trying to figure out where we will get the most value.”

But he’s certain he will monitor the southbound U.S. Highway 17 bridge over the Ashley River in downtown Charleston. The bridge opened in 1925, he said, so he wants to monitor its condition.

And, he said, he will expand monitoring of the Ravenel Bridge. “It’s a high-value asset and we want to make sure it performs the way it’s supposed to perform.”

The technology is better than using visual inspection alone, he said. “Sometimes what might look bad might not be as bad as you think. Basically it comes down to helping us make decisions.”

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.