Over-height Vehicle Collision Protection and Detection System for Cold Region Highway Bridges

Abstract and project information last updated: 16 August 2011. Project updates are dated below.

Pizhong Qiao, WSU

Alaska University Transportation Center and Washington State University

1 July 2011
End Date
31 December 2012


Highway bridge safety is a concern nationwide, and of particular concern in northern states like Alaska and Washington where over-height trucks damage the bottom corner or edges of girders. Beyond these states, research estimates that nearly one-third of the nation’s 600,000 highway bridges are currently in need of repair or replacements, making applications for innovative bridge concepts and construction methods vital to both traffic safety and cost-effective maintenance. Because of this pressure issue, researches are addressing a growing need for over-height impact protection and detection systems.

This collaborative research team, led by Dr. Pizhong Qiao of Washington State University and J. Leroy Hulsey of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will examine novel use of high energy absorbing materials and smart sensors in cold regions to help protect against this costly bridge damage.
Qiao and Hulsey are developing a system using lightweight and high-energy absorbing honeycomb sandwich materials. The team will integrate the system with smart impact sensors for over-height detecting and remote sensing to protect bridge girders from localized impact damages in cold regions.
The over-height project will address the AUTC theme of “transportation safety, security and innovation in cold regions” by exploring this novel use of materials. The project is also:

  • Developing integrated remote detection and monitoring technology in difficulty-accessible areas during cold weather;
  • Improving rapid construction and installation techniques through lightweight honeycomb sandwich materials and modular units in cold climates and enhancing safety and security through early warning, online remote monitoring, load-rerouting impact damage preventing.
  • Bringing together the collective insight of researchers and bridge safety experts from UAF, WSU, Washington State Department of Transportation, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Ohio Department of Transportation/FHWA.