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Infrastructure Technology Institute

US DOT Administrator Peter Appel Visits ITI


Undergraduate civil engineering student Amanda Chen demonstrates a full-scale mock-up of an instrumented bridge retrofit to RITA Administrator Peter Appel.

On September 28, 2010, Peter Appel, Administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), visited ITI’s offices at Northwestern University. Administrator Appel spent the day touring Northwestern University’s RITA-funded University Transportation Centers, including ITI.

During the ITI portion of Administrator Appel’s tour, ITI research engineers, faculty members, and students gave hands-on demonstrations of their RITA-funded research:

The Research Engineering Group (REG) demonstrated its structural health monitoring system in Hurley, Wisconsin, by showing live, real-time strain data and video as trucks crossed an instrumented bridge hundreds of miles away. This system, installed in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation allows engineers to determine directly the damage done by overweight trucks to bridges that were not designed to accommodate them.

The REG then demonstrated the structural health monitoring system to evaluate a Chicago Transit Authority ‘L’ bridge by presenting a video that shows loads borne by a newly-designed retrofit as a train passes overhead. This system will allow the CTA to quantify the long-term efficacy of the retrofit and give their engineers real data about the health of their bridges that will allow them to wisely allocate limited funds for repair and replacement.

Finally, undergraduate civil engineering student Amanda Chen gave Administrator Appel a live demonstration of her work on the instrumentation to monitor strain on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge carrying I-65 across the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. After a failed anchor bolt was found on the bridge in 2006, a retrofit anchor bolt was installed, and Northwestern University researchers applied strain gages to continuously monitor the new bolt. In 2008, researchers were able to remotely detect an abrupt failure in the new anchor bolt, and immediately notified transportation officials in Kentucky.

Administrator Appel noted that all three of these projects directly advanced the US DOT strategic goals to achieve and maintain a state of good repair of the entire national surface transportation network.