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From the Editor

lynn stanley



residents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson believed that a trans-Appalachian road was critical to the unification of a fledgling country. Bradford Road, which cut an 820-mile path through Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, became the first federally funded road in U.S. history. Construction began in 1811 and was completed in 1834. Forty years later, the first major bridge built entirely of steel made its debut. Sporting three arch spans, the Eads Bridge was 6,444 ft. long and spanned the Mississippi River, connecting St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois.

The Interstate Highway System was authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, with most of the system completed by 1990. The American Society of Civil Engineers, the country’s oldest national civil engineering organization, began issuing its quadrennial Infrastructure Report Card in 1998. Since then, marks for America’s framework have hovered at a D until 2021 when the country earned a C-. The bridge category scored a C.

In November 2021, landmark legislation was signed into law that promises a badly needed infusion of cash to jump start rehabilitation and replacement projects across the country. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is a five-year, $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that marks the country’s largest investment in infrastructure in nearly a century.

Almost 224,000 U.S. bridges are in need of major repairs.
Dan Snyder, senior director for business development at the American Iron and Steel Institute, cites a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation 2021 National Bridge inventory database, which states almost 224,000 U.S. bridges are in need of major repairs. Based on average repair and replacement cost data produced by the Federal Highway Administration, estimated costs to repair these structures is $260 billion. Nearly half of the total number of bridges in the U.S. are rated in fair condition—meaning the structure shows evidence of minor deterioration or cracks. The number of bridges in fair condition grew by 2,916 in 2021.

In this month’s issue of FFJournal, Snyder, who is also director of the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA), talks about advances the organization has made in developing new products that can contribute to a sustainable infrastructure with minimal maintenance and a life cycle lasting up to 100 years.

Mark Storey, director and county engineer for Whitman County Public Works in Washington, has worked with the bridge alliance and recently sourced the organization’s modular rolled steel girder bridge system to replace two timber bridges. Valmont Industries Inc. saw such promise in the alliance’s Press-Brake Steel Tub Girder bridge system (PBTG), it decided to enter the market space itself. Today Valmont is one of the largest fabricators for PBTG.

Bridge owners and designers are looking to steel for answers. One might think it’s because of steel’s impressive lineage which dates back to the Iron Age in 1000 B.C. I believe it might have something to do with the nature of the metal. Steel is a bit like a chameleon, in that it is endlessly adaptable. In the hands of curious and creative metallurgists and engineers, steel is continually reinvented for the needs of today and tomorrow.