Protecting Bridges from Blast and Fire

Blast Protection of Bridges is a CITRIS project aimed at determining the response of long-span bridges and elevated freeways to blasts that occur on the roadway. Led by Professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl and funded by the NSF as well, researchers will establish how bridge responds to blast and how much damage can occur due to certain size explosives. Once that is understood, the engineers will develop technologies that can be used to minimize such damage and, more importantly, to prevent progressive and catastrophic collapse of the bridges. Obviously the results of first phase, to establish the extent of the damage, are not in public domain, but the technologies to prevent the damage and the resulting catastrophic progressive collapse are widely published to enable engineers and bridge designers to implement such technologies at the design level for new bridges and also apply them to existing bridges as a measure of retrofit. Such technologies can only be used to enhance the blast resistance of the bridge and not for malicious purposes.

Another related project is that of how to protect bridges from fire and, more specifically, the study of the April 2007 collapse of the MacArthur Maze complex of freeway interchanges that was caused by an overturned tanker truck. In this NSF project, researchers from CITRIS and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have studied and collected data on the collapsed maze and now are continuing to analyze the data. The goal is to build a structural/fire model of the collapsed area, to simulate the fire and collapse, and to study how fire and structure interacted that night. This collapse offers us a valuable opportunity to see what can be learned and to improve fire resistance of other steel bridges and overpasses.

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