World's first recycled plastic railway bridge
By Richard High25 May 2010
International engineering consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff has designed the world's first recycled plastic railway bridges for the US Army at Fort Eustis, Virginia, US.
The innovative structures, which can support 130 ton (118 tonne) railway locomotives, have just completed load trials and are scheduled to begin service in June.
The bridges use Recycled Structural Composite (RSC), a thermoplastic material manufactured by Axion International Holdings from recycled domestic and industrial plastic.
The structures, which comprise two sections spanning some 40 and 80 ft (12.2 and 24.4 m) , were designed to deliver the high load rating necessary to transport locomotives and freight.
"RSC material meets the country's need for green, sustainable and durable products, which are highly competitive at initial bidding stage and are substantially more so on a life cycle cost basis," said Parsons Brinckerhoff's Vijay Chandra, principal-in-charge for design of the two railway bridges.
Axion's RSC technology was developed in conjunction with scientists at Rutgers University, where it was patented.
It is the first known structural product of its kind capable of supporting heavy loads and is more durable and significantly longer lasting than traditional infrastructure materials such as wood, steel and concrete, said an Axion company spokesman.
RSC has previously been used on two road bridges for the US Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, US. The structures came into service in early 2009 and are capable of carrying 71 ton (64.5 tonne) Abrahams tanks.
James Kerstein, chief executive officer of Axion explains: "This represents another truly historic event for both structural engineers and environmentally conscious individuals across the nation.
"Not only is this bridge able to support the weight of a 130-ton (118 tonne) locomotive, but it was also less expensive to build than one using steel, concrete or wood."