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Home News News Archive Lehigh auditions a new deck for a landmark bridge

With two towers reaching 700 feet into the sky and a span that stretches nearly a mile, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a familiar beacon to travelers driving from New Jersey to New York City.

As the starting point for the annual New York City Marathon, the bridge is also a landmark for the world’s serious runners, more than 40,000 of whom filled the bridge for this year’s race on Sunday, Nov. 7.

The Verrazano-Narrows, the largest suspension bridge in the U.S., opened in 1964. Five years later, to accommodate increased traffic, a lower deck was added.

Now, New York City’s Triborogh Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) has decided to replace the original, upper deck—a grid of steel beams overlaid with concrete—with a steel orthotropic deck.

TBTA’s decision, says Sougata Roy, was necessitated in part by security measures taken after Sept. 11, 2001. Fearful of a possible terrorist attack on the bridge, TBTA restricted truck traffic to the upper deck to limit damage from explosives that might be detonated inside a truck. The resulting heavier traffic loads accelerated damage to the upper deck. TBTA retrofitted the deck with new concrete, but with limited success.

Roy, a senior research scientist in Lehigh’s ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems) Center, is testing a full-scale prototype of the orthotropic deck that will be used as the Verrazano-Narrows’ replacement deck. The experiments are taking place in ATLSS’ structural testing lab, whose test floor and fixed reaction walls, among the world’s largest, impose multidirectional loads that simulate the demands structures sustain from traffic, wind and earthquakes.


Recent Project

PITA Project: Integrated Framework using Monitoring and Reliability for Improved infrastructure Management under Uncertainty: Phases 1, 2, and 3


The aim of the PITA project is to develop a novel integrated framework using structural health monitoring and reliability technologies for improved bridge management under uncertainty. Through the use of new technologies and the employment of structural health monitoring and reliability approaches, the project is expected to have significant impact on bridge lifetime management practices.


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