UTSA Civil Engineering professor aids in bridge safety

Arturo

Arturo Montoya

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(July 3, 2013) -- According to a recent report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, one in nine of the nation's bridges are rated as structurally deficient. When a bridge collapses, it raises questions about the safety of millions of travelers. How did it pass inspection? What could have been done to prevent it from collapsing?

Arturo Montoya, assistant professor of civil engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), studies the aging of structures, such as steel bridges. This summer, he will embark on a yearlong project funded by a seed grant from UTSA and the Southwest Research Institute to develop a complex mathematical modeling system to determine the rate at which a steel structure deteriorates over time due to environmental factors.

"A bridge's age, design, traffic rate and load size are all currently figured into visual inspections," says Montoya. "However, another important factor that has not been incorporated into bridge inspections is the environmental impact on the structure's components. For example, a steel bridge near the ocean will corrode more quickly due to higher exposure to salt compared to the exact same bridge in San Antonio."

With the start-up funds, Montoya has purchased an accelerated corrosion chamber that he and his students will use to test the corrosion rate of steel under different environmental conditions. This research will help transportation agencies and safety inspectors more accurately predict a bridge's service time based on the probability of deterioration due to environmental conditions.

To learn more about the UTSA Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, visit http://engineering.utsa.edu/CE. Connect online with UTSA at www.utsa.edu, www.facebook.com/utsa, www.twitter.com/utsa or www.youtube.com/utsa.