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Professor to Lead Bridge Replacement Workshop

Friday, September 7, 2007

Assistant Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Yong Bai will lead the National Science Foundation-funded workshop "Rapid Bridge Replacement after Extreme Events." Twelve American scholars and 15 Chinese scholars will meet from Sept. 22 to Oct. 3 in China to discuss pressing issues on rapid bridge replacement.

Government agencies, the construction industry and the public have paid close attention to damaged critical infrastructure, such as bridges, after extreme events. These concerns have heightened after tragic high-profile events including the September 11 terrorist attacks, hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in South Asia and, more recently, the Interstate 35 W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minn.

Highway bridges built in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s are wearing out, while inflation-adjusted federal spending on bridge maintenance has fallen, said Bai, who is organizing the workshop. The current situation, with respect to bridge maintenance, is in fact so severe that many states cannot afford to address all bridges in need of repair, so they are focusing only on the most severe cases, he said. This strategy can have profound consequences.

In addition to aging bridge facilities and threats of extreme events, governments and the construction industry must face another growing crisis: a labor shortage in the skilled workforce as baby boomers reach retirement age.

Participants in the workshop hope to develop an innovative approach to address these issues that integrates research with teaching, learning and training in the area of bridge assessment, repair, and replacement, said Bai, who specializes in construction management. The researchers also will take into account the limited nature of resources, the importance of a cost-effective design and methods, the necessity of quick responses to extreme events, the need to capture and represent existing knowledge and experience, and finally the imperative to train the required workforce.

Because these issues and events are not limited to U.S. soil, the workshop will support the development of a multinational and multidisciplinary collaboration between U.S. universities and Chinese universities in the effort to address these pressing questions.

The U.S. scholars are from the University of Kansas, Clemson University, Iowa State University, University of Hawaii, and University of New Mexico. The Chinese counterparts are from Tongji University in Shanghai, Chongqing University in Chongqing, and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

More detailed information about the workshop is available at http://www.engr.ku.edu/~ybai/ .

To learn about KU research effort on highway bridges, please go to: http://www.iri.ku.edu/publications.html .



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