Critical Concrete Infrastructure: Extending the life of Canada’s bridge network

Volume 18, Number 1, Summer 2013

One-third of Canada’s 75,000 highway bridges have structural or functional deficiencies and a short remaining service life. With 20 million light vehicles, 750,000 trucks and 15,000 public transit buses using Canadian bridges annually, they are essential for the efficient movement of commercial goods within the country and across international borders.

Owners of bridges and critical concrete infrastructure are seeking to reduce operating costs during their service life. Canadian industry dealing with the construction and maintenance of concrete bridges is exploring advances in materials science, fault detection and automation to develop and improve their products and tools to meet bridge owners’ needs.

Canadian firms are already at work helping to develop long-life structures. However, they are facing technical barriers that are challenging the adoption of new products and technologies, such as early failure of materials used for rehabilitation and unreliable technologies for initial and long-term assessment.

Addressing technical barriers

Responding to these needs, NRC is launching a critical concrete infrastructure initiative to help industry develop and validate performance materials and structural systems that extend service life, as well as more reliable condition assessment and decision-making technologies. The results will provide industry with the capability and technologies to extend the service life of bridges and reduce the life cycle operation and maintenance costs of existing and new bridges.

As a leader in developing technologies in concrete infrastructure, we will bring together multi-disciplinary expertise and world-class testing facilities to help set up new research and innovation activities and linkages that Canadian industry requires to succeed. With industrial partners along the value chain, the new initiative will develop and validate new products and systems that will give Canadian manufacturers and bridge designers a competitive edge in developing a bridge infrastructure with a 100-year life cycle.

Concrete bridge value chain

  • Manufacturers of cement, advanced composites, admixtures and sensors
  • Information and communication technology firms
  • Designers and contractors
  • Critical concrete infrastructure owners including provincial and municipal departments of transportation, and federal departments and agencies

We will partner with industry—including bridge owners—to conduct strategic research and technical services, including large-scale and full-scale demonstrations based on two themes:

  • High Performance Materials and Structures Technologies responds to industry needs for high performance concrete and composite materials, as well as structures with a higher resistance to normal and extreme loads. The R&D, evaluations, and demonstration activities will specifically support industry in long-life and shock-resistant critical concrete bridge infrastructures, as well as low life cycle operation and maintenance costs.
  • Intelligent Condition Assessment and Decision Making will help bridge owners, sensor manufacturers and information and communication technology industries to develop more reliable condition assessment and long-term forecasting and decision-support technologies for bridge management. The deployed technologies will enable industry to meet owners’ demand in reducing operation and maintenance costs and to mitigate socio-economic impacts associated with bridge failures.

Working with concrete and composite materials companies, information and communication technology firms and bridge owners, we will help the industry grow its business in rehabilitation, construction and management of critical infrastructure.

For more information

Contact Dino Zuppa at dino.zuppa@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca or 613-949-0073.