Ultra-High Performance Concrete Used to Build Bridge in Iowa

Even though ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) has been commercially available in the U.S. since 2000 it was primarily studied by industry researchers and organizations such as the Federal Highway Administration. The FHA’s research involved the study of UHPC in highway infrastructure as well as the viability of using it for bridge applications such as precast, prestressed girders and precast waffle panels for bridge decks. They also looked at using it as a jointing material between precast concrete deck panels and girders and between the flanges of adjacent girders.

Now Buchanan County, Iowa has just opened a new bridge that was constructed with a new UHPC that was developed in South Korea. To build the 52-foot long Hawkeye UHPC Bridge, the Buchanan County Secondary Roads Department used the UPHC mix containing short strands of steel that engineers say makes it up to eight times stronger than traditional mixes. The steel used in the UHPC is a waste product from the tire manufacturing industry.

According to Byung-Suk Kim, an engineer with the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology, he states that, “structures like the new bridge may endure for 200 years, and is almost maintenance-free.” In contrast, a bridge constructed with a traditional concrete mix typically lasts about 50 years and need repairs as soon as 15 to 20 years.

Brent Phares, director of the Bridge Engineering Center at Iowa State University, says that the reason the UPHC is so durable is that the new concrete mix is dense and fluids are not able to penetrate the surface. Thereby, it will not deteriorate like traditional concrete structures. One caveat that Brian Keirleber, an engineer with Buchanan County, noted was that the project involved a steep learning curve due to the new technology.

The Conco Companies are a leading supplier of concrete services for the Western U.S. and got our start in the Bay Area in 1959 by offering clients the best value on a wide range of concrete services and products. Since that time, we have taken a leading role as one of the top concrete contractors in the region. Our offices serve California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.

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