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Repairing a Deteriorating Bridge Pier on an Aging Bridge in North Dakota

bridge over water
March 28, 2022

Ulteig and NDDOT collaborate on a new, less cumbersome method to repair bridge piers to extend the life of a 90-year-old bridge in Dickinson, North Dakota

Dickinson, North Dakota – The Heart River is a 180-mile-long river that flows from the western side of North Dakota into the Missouri River. Near its headwaters, the river runs through Dickinson, a city of nearly 23,000. It’s here, on North Dakota State Highway 22, a north-south highway that crosses Interstate 94, that the Ulteig Bridge Team was tasked to design a plan to rehabilitate an aging bridge.

The 157-foot long, 58.4-foot wide bridge (deck width, edge to edge) was originally built in 1931 and reconstructed in 1967. With daily average traffic of 9,940 vehicles, the bridge was last inspected in September 2020, which noted “numerous spalls on the deck” and “pier 2W cracking/disintegration at the waterline on both original pier columns.”

Based on the condition of the reinforced concrete transportation structure, the 11-person Ulteig Bridge Team was able to come up with a unique maintenance approach for the  North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) on a number of improvements, which included:

  • A new deck overlay
  • Upgrades to the existing bridge rails
  • Replacing the expansion joint

Of particular concern to both the NDDOT and the Ulteig Bridge Team was the bridge’s substructure, which consisted of eight reinforced concrete piers, one of which (pier 2W) was experiencing cracking/disintegration.

“Typically, in a case like this, we would create a cofferdam,” said John Butt, P.E., Technical Manager with the Ulteig Bridge Team. “However, that is a very expensive solution, and it triggers a number of environmental regulations necessitating additional permitting.”

Instead, Ulteig suggested another solution – the application of a product called PileMedic to repair the bridge’s deteriorating pier. The use of this product represented the first time it was used on a bridge in North Dakota and would lead to a better end product in construction. NDDOT engineers were interested in testing out the new product as a possible solution for other bridge maintenance projects across the state.

“We worked in a very collaborative effort with our colleagues at NDDOT,” said Butt. “This represented an exciting opportunity to apply fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) to a bridge rehabilitation project.”

With the PileMedic system, the FRP fabric is wrapped around the column. The laminate is installed to create a jacket around the column. Grout is then tremie poured into the FRP jacket displacing the water while repairing the existing spall. The FRP laminate is left in place to provide additional longevity for the repair.

“NDDOT is being proactive in using this solution,” Butt added. “Not every bridge needs to be replaced. For counties and states on tight budgets, the Heart River Bridge offers a good example of how to extend the life of a bridge. This is important for maintaining our nation’s infrastructure.”

Learn More about Ulteig’s Bridge Expertise.

To learn more about the expertise and experience of John Butt and our 11-person team that specializes in bridge design, replacement/rehabilitation, and inspections, click here.

  • Bridges


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