New bridge design seismically tested at UNR

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- The life-saving potential is huge. Earthquake testing being done at the University of Nevada, Reno can improve safety and decrease build-time of bridges. Engineers are testing a type of bridge that is pre-fabricated in a factory before it's installed.

"All the components of this bridge could be made in a factory, shipped to the site and put together like Lego blocks," said Ian Buckle, professor of civil engineering at UNR.

"Rather than spending a year and a half to build the bridge, do it in six months (using this method)," said Saiid Saiidi, professor of civil engineering at UNR.

It's a great concept; engineers just have to determine if the joints that hold the bridge together stand up to intense shaking.

"The bridge has done better than expected. Let me put it this way; the level of damage that we had expected was higher," said Saiidi.

The shake tables were set to replicate the 1994 Northridge quake, except with each test the magnitude was bumped up. Still, the bridge never failed.

"This particular detail has done extremely well. The bridge has not pulled apart. No span has collapsed, and it looks serviceable. It looks like you could get emergency vehicles over it," said Buckle.

The series of tests, which cost about $900,000, was paid for by the California Department of Transportation, California's largest bridge builder.

"This study today is going to allow them to make modifications in design for their future bridges," said Saiidi.

This isn't just something that will happen down the road. Expect the design modifications to be implemented soon.

"I expect within 12 months because we have a very close relationship with CalTrans and their designers and their research team. We work closely with them and with NDOT to get research into practice as fast as possible,” said Buckle.