Little Ivy Creek Bridge Replacement Using Accelerated Bridge Construction Methods; Crumbling Infrastructure: Fixing our Nation's Falling Public Works

Blankinship, Thomas, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Gomez, Jose, Engineering Systems and Environment, University of Virginia
Burden, Lindsay, Engineering Systems and Environment, University of Virginia
Jacques, Richard, Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Neeley, Kathryn, Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

My technical and STS topics both dealt with the failing infrastructure of the United
States. While my technical topic looked at just one example of an old, decaying bridge my STS
topic attempted to take a step back and determine the extent of the problem and what could be
done to fix it.
My technical topic dealt with the replacement of an old bridge over a stream on Route
250 in Albemarle County. We were to determine the best method of construction and then come
up with a design. The design we chose used Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) methods to
minimize impact on the traveling public. Accelerated Bridge Construction involves using precast
concrete bridge sections and shipping them onsite for installation. This is more expensive than
conventional bridge construction methods, but construction time is significantly shortened. Using
this method, the project took two weeks whereas it would have taken three months using
conventional bridge construction methods. The increased cost was deemed worth it given the
reduced impact to the traveling public. Our design consisted of two twin-celled box culverts with
a roadway on top. Box culverts are a common design, so price was reduced as a result. The
culverts also allowed the stream to continue with its flow. Bridge design guidelines from various
state’s Departments of Transportation were consulted for relevant design criteria such as wall
thickness and culvert width. Our final design was very similar to the design that the Virginia
Department of Transportation actually implemented.
My STS topic was inspired by our technical topic’s original design question: what is the
best way to replace this existing bridge that is in poor condition? The crux of the question lies in
the word “best.” We had to determine what criteria we were willing to describe as the most
desirable. We ended up determining estimated costs of construction for both conventional and
Accelerated Bridge Construction methods. When price is the only cost taken into account,
conventional methods will win out every time. The strength of ABC, however, is the
dramatically reduced construction timelines. The traveling public bears the brunt of road
construction’s effects. This had to have a quantifiable cost, so I set out to determine what that
was. Additionally, I wanted to take a look at how bad the infrastructure problem in the United
States actually is, how we should address it, and how we can avoid similar problems in the
My technical topic got me thinking about how the types of solutions we implement as
engineers can affect a lot of people in very profound ways. We have all been stuck in traffic due
to construction, and this results in lost time, productivity, burnt gas, and a myriad of other
problems. There are, however, ways to try to mitigate these costs and annoyances. There is also a
great motivation to do so, but it requires looking at the whole picture and taking into account
societal costs as well as construction price tags.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Accelerated Bridge Construction, Infrastructure, Societal Cost, Risk Assessment

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Jose Gomez
Technical Advisor: Lindsay Ivey-Burden
STS Advisor: Kathryn Neeley
STS Advisor: Richard Jacques
Technical Team Members: Beau Gutridge, Avery Davis, Ben Redfern, Collin Shepard, Jacob Hegemier, Marc Michaud, Miguel Ricardo de Obaldia, and Sam Cave

Issued Date: