Over the summer, the BEAST Lab at Rutgers CAIT began to evaluate new and emerging bridge preservation technologies in addition to ongoing testing of a full-scale, 50-ft. bridge deck. Specifically, researchers started investigating UHPC to establish quantitative measurements of the material’s ability to perform long-term under real-world traffic and environmental conditions.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sponsored the first project to utilize the Bridge Evaluation and Accelerated Structural Testing (BEAST) Lab at Rutgers CAIT, an ongoing effort seeking to establish the long-term performance of bare reinforced concrete bridge decks and overlay systems among other variables. A two lane, 50 foot simply-supported bridge built with steel girders was constructed and began accelerated testing in 2019.

To date, it’s been subjected to more than 2-million passes of rolling load, 85 freeze-thaw cycles, and over 3,000 gallons of salt brine. Researchers have been monitoring how the bridge deteriorates through a complex structural monitoring system on the specimen consisting of more than 200 sensors. With this information, they are generating a valuable knowledge base for bridge asset owners on deterioration modeling and data-driven management of bridge infrastructure by simulating multiple decades of service life within approximately two years of accelerated loading and testing.

As a result, the bridge deck deterioration has reached a point where, in practice, an overlay would commonly be installed for rehabilitation and preservation purposes. This summer, researchers installed an Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC) overlay on the specimen to test the service life of this innovative and resilient material.

Watch the time lapse video, and see a photo gallery, of the UHPC pour and installation below.

For this innovative line of research, the BEAST was named an EDC Innovation of the Month by FHWA.

UHPC is a type of advanced concrete that offers superior durability and resilience compared to traditional mixes. UHPC often contains steel fibers that allow the concrete to better maintain its strength after exposure to harsh conditions and extreme traffic loading, is less permeable and less likely to degrade due to freeze-thaw cycles, and is often easier to install on a bridge.

For the next year, this innovative material will be subjected to accelerated traffic loading and environmental testing at the BEAST Lab. Data will be collected with the goal of better establishing and understanding the overlays’ ability to perform long-term and under realistic conditions. This research can help bridge owners make more informed infrastructure maintenance decisions by providing them with data-driven insights into the service life of UHPC overlays.

UHPC Pour Photo Gallery