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REUTERS: Barge Rams Bridge, Deliberately

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Barge Rams Bridge, Deliberately

MIAMI April 5 (Reuters) - A 1,000-tonbarge rammed into a pier supporting an
aging bridge over Florida's Apalachicola Bay last week, delighting civil
engineers, who plan to ram it a dozen more times.

The old St. George Island Causeway Bridge was scheduled for demolition
anyway, so the Florida Department of Transportation and engineers at the
University of Florida set up a $1 million experiment to collect crash-impact
data that will help them design safer bridges.

"It's something that we don't get to do very often," Henry Bollman, senior
bridge designer with the department, said on Monday. "We rammed the channel
pier once last week. ... Today we'll have hopefully two collisions."

The bridge and the barge are fitted with more than 150 sensors to provide a
microsecond-by-microsecond record of the impact load as the barge hits the
bridge at increasingly faster speeds. Most bridge design standards are based
on tests using scale models, so the data collected from the crash tests
could affect national design codes, the engineers said.

They rented the 150-foot (45-meter) barge from a contractor who built the
newly opened replacement bridge connecting the small town of East Point to
St. George's Island. When the tests are done, the experimenters will pay to
have the vessel repaired. The bridge will be demolished and the pieces sunk
to create an artificial reef for fish.

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