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Low-Cost, Long-Term Bridge Safety Solution


Nizar Lajnef, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, is working with the Mackinac Bridge Authority to have prototype sensors installed underneath the Mackinac Bridge. The first installation is only six sensors, but if this works they’ll put hundreds on that bridge and others in the next year or two.

“We’re trying to avoid bad surprises on one of the most important and historic bridges in Michigan,” Lajnef said.

The sensors will allow the famous bridge to be monitored at all times and a wireless signal will be recorded by simply driving over the bridge with a laptop. If there is a crack, the bridge will call MDOT to report it … in the same way your home can now call your cellphone if the back door was left open or your refrigerator can let you know when you’re low on milk.

This first installation is part of a demonstration project for the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, but there is a plan to also install the sensors on multiple other bridges in Washington, D.C., Virginia and southern Nevada.

The first portion of Nizar’s research was paid for by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. This second portion has just received approximately $1.5 million from NSF for a joint project between MSU, Washington University at St. Louis (Missouri), and the University of Nevada-Reno that will use multiple prototypes for roads, bridges and earthquake monitoring.

– Patricia Mroczek via the College of Engineering

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