David Darwin is rewriting the book on bridge decks.
Darwin, the Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas, is working with 19 states on ways to prolong the lives of bridges by preventing cracking and corrosion. Through his research, he’s identified the leading causes of bridge deck deterioration and ways to prevent it. These efforts over the past four decades helped earn Darwin national recognition from Concrete Construction magazine. The magazine said Darwin “continues to add to what we know about corrosion and durable concrete” and recognized him for his research in three areas: evaluating corrosion protection systems for steel reinforcing, bond strength between steel and concrete and the reduction of cracking in concrete.
Darwin and his research team work to identify the main reasons bridge decks crack and steel corrodes and to find solutions that improve safety and save money over time.
“Deterioration of these bridge decks is a big problem,” Darwin said. “It’s not the most expensive part of the bridge to fix, but it’s the most frequent, and it costs more to repair a bridge deck than it does to construct it in the first place.”
Darwin’s team works to apply best practices to bridge deck construction, and one of their key findings has been that some methods in the past actually produce a better product, with less cracking, than those in use today. Cracks lead to deterioration of the bridge deck and the corrosion of steel, causing problems for the overall structural integrity of the bridge.
Darwin’s work also is influencing transportation leaders within Kansas. “While our procedures are not universally accepted, the Kansas Department of Transportation has already modified a number of procedures based on our research, and we’re pleased to see that,” Darwin said. Darwin and the other four individuals recognized by the magazine appear on the January cover — an illustration of Mount Rushmore with the presidents replaced by the concrete industry leaders. Darwin’s likeness is in approximately the same spot as Teddy Roosevelt, which suits Darwin just fine. “I’ll go for that. Teddy was a good president,” Darwin said.