New bridge monitoring system could save lives

Meghin Moore, special to

WASHINGTON – Not all tragedies are avoidable, but researchers at the University of Maryland hoping to save lives with a new sensor system for bridges.

The early warning system could help prevent potential disasters like the Minneapolis bridge collapse five years ago that killed 13 people and injured 145 others.

The smart bridge system uses wireless sensors with real-time monitoring to check bridge conditions. Issues like strain, vibration and expanding cracks are tracked, and the system can even send out email alerts.

“We no longer need to roll the dice when it comes to the structural integrity of the nation’s highway bridges,” says University of Maryland research engineer Mehdi Kalantari in a news release. “Technical advances in wireless sensors make real- time monitoring both affordable and practical.”

Locally, it is being tested on small bridges on the Beltway in Montgomery County.

The system has not been certified by the Department of Transportation, but is being used to monitor some construction cranes.

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