Colin Albright ’18, Staff writer
The pedestrian bridge that connects the athletic side of campus to the academic side has undergone structural construction.
The 40-year-old bridge that spans the railroad tracks is constructed of reinforced concrete, which is concrete that is poured over a carefully engineered grid of steel reinforcing bar (rebar). Over time, the concrete and structural rebar undergo a gradual deterioration due to exposure to all kinds of weather.
“The winter weather in this area accelerates the pace of deterioration,” Don Santostefano, senior director of facilities management, said. “The same structure in an area that never experiences freezing weather will tend to last longer.”
In addition to general deterioration because of the weather, chemicals that the bridge is exposed to such as ice-preventative salt can cause the concrete and rebar to become weaker over time. When the bridge was newer, corrosive rock salt was used to prevent ice. The facilities staff is currently using less corrosive chemicals to prevent ice.
“Over the past couple of decades, we have used less corrosive chemicals for the ice melt operation,” Santostefano said. “The recent severe cold and freeze/thaw cycles resulted in chunks of concrete being pushed off the structure.”
Sections of concrete fell off the west side stairs on both the north and south sides of the bridge this winter. A structural engineer was hired to inspect the entire bridge and recommend possible solutions to the problem.
“[The engineer] recommended the installation of supports under the cantilevered sections of the stairs on the west side only,” Santostefano said. “The east side stairs do not need the added supports.”
An entirely new bridge is fully-planned, and construction was initially expected to begin in the summer of 2018. The goal of starting construction has now been pushed back to the summer of 2019.
“As part of the design process, we must work with various approving agencies to gain approval of our design,” Santostefano said. “The approvals required involve somewhat lengthy bureaucratic procedures. It has recently become apparent that necessary approvals cannot be obtained in time to allow construction during summer 2018.”
Tours given to prospective students go across the bridge and some questions have been raised by these students.
Current and prospective students can look forward to a new bridge being constructed in 2019.