First earthquake-proof bridge planned in US

By Mike Hayes18 November 2016

Rendering of the future south portal of the State Route 99, showing location of the planned exit ram

Rendering of the future south portal of the State Route 99, showing location of the planned exit ramp

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has approved plans for the construction of a bendable bridge to withstand earthquakes.

The bridge represents the first real-world test of science that has been developed over the past 15 years at the University of Nevada.

Constructed from “super-elastic metals and bendable composites”, Seattle’s State Route 99 exit ramp will theoretically be able to withstand a quake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale.

Using shape-memory alloys, the frames of the bridge will have the capacity to bend and twist under pressure, then return to its original shape.

Tom Baker, bridge and structures engineer for WSDOT, said, “This is potentially a giant leap forward. We design for no collapse, but in the future, we could be designing for no damage and be able to keep bridges open to emergency vehicles, commerce and the public after a strong quake.

“We’re testing this cutting-edge technology in a real-live lab now. We’ll examine how it performs with heavy traffic volumes, rain, freezing and thawing cycles and evaluate where we go from here.”

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