Much of the world’s bridges are old and need to be periodically repaired or replaced. However, premature replacement wastes money and non-renewable resources. BridgeMon is led by three SMEs who are working to extend the lives of existing bridges. They will develop bridge monitoring technologies to prove they are safe and can be kept in service for longer, thus ensuring more sustainable road asset management.
A bridge is safe when the stresses due to traffic load are less than its resistance to that load. Bridge monitoring is gathering information about both sides of this inequality, traffic load and bridge resistance and the BridgeMon SEMs cover both. It is led by Cestel, a world leader in Bridge Weigh-in-Motion (WIM). Cestel have partnered with two SMEs that specialise in monitoring the resistance of bridges to load, one for the road sector and one for the railway sector.
The novel theory of Moving Force Identification (MFI) will be applied in bridge WIM system to increase accuracy considerably and extend it to other types of bridge. An advance on MFI will be used to extend WIM to railway bridges and to gain additional information on the resistance of bridges to load. MFI and other improvements will increase the accuracy of the truck weight data to Class A, i.e., to the point where 95% of results have errors of less than 5%, a level not available today with any WIM technology.
In the area of structural health monitoring BridgMon will develop and implement tools for improved bridges assessment, including modules to evaluate fatigue life of steel bridges and structural health of railway bridges, both combined with Bridge WIM (traffic loading).
The new technologies, coupled with partnership arrangements with Cestel, will give the other SMEs Unique Selling Points in the bridge resistance monitoring markets. The result gives a potential for massive growth in these SMEs in the coming 5 years, in both turnover and employment.
New tools to improve safety assessment of road and rail bridges
An improvement in current bridge weigh-in-motion (WIM) techniques and algorithms to monitor bridge traffic loading and resistance could result in more efficient monitoring and more seamless land transport.
Evaluating bridge safety requires in-depth knowledge of traffic loads, as well as bridge resistance to that load. It is crucial to assess the safety particularly of ageing bridges that are close to the end of their life cycle and need replacing. However, this requires the proper tools to help bridge owners and managers decide on the best remedial measures and distribute their maintenance budget.
The EU-funded BRIDGEMON (Bridge safety monitoring) project developed tools that obtain more detailed information on the loading and resistance of a bridge. It worked on improving current bridge WIM technology, which calculates bridge loads from trucks crossing the bridge with highway speed. The project also developed a virtual monitoring technique to estimate the remaining fatigue life of steel bridges.
To achieve its aims, the project conducted field tests to validate the new bridge WIM algorithms, showing significant improvements in accurately estimating axle loads of heavy vehicles. Furthermore, it tested the new-improved virtual monitoring technique on a major steel bridge in the Netherlands, offering a more powerful tool to calculate fatigue damage.
The bridge WIM technology was then tailored to suit railway bridges as well, accurately calculating the weight of trains that passed over the bridges. This involved developing specific algorithms that could correctly pinpoint damage and fatigue in railway bridges.
Overall, BRIDGEMON was successful in achieving its aims, offering the project partners new ways to enhance their product and improve their competitiveness in the field of bridge monitoring. Most importantly, this stands to enhance bridge assessment and safety in Europe for both road transport and rail, pre-empting transport disruption and likely saving lives.