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Defects in Steel-Reinforced Concrete Bridges

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Transportation systems are crucial for our economy and the general well-being of our society. Unfortunately, our infrastructure is aging and deteriorating. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the estimated cost to repair or replace our nation’s highway bridges exceeds $100 billion dollars. Contractors, engineers, and construction firms are tasked with addressing these issues and developing effective solutions for designing, building, and inspecting our nation’s infrastructure to ensure sustainability.

In this brief article, a Boca Raton construction lawyer, will discuss many of the common reasons why reinforced concrete structures deteriorate. It’s important that construction professionals familiarize themselves with the most frequent causes of deterioration so they can properly inspect the structural integrity of bridge decks and develop effective strategies to combat these issues. Remember, for any of your construction legal needs, including construction defect defense, consult a Boca Raton construction attorney, with Cotney Construction Law.

Why Steel-Reinforced Concrete Structures Deteriorate

According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, there are several “deterioration mechanisms” that cause the corrosion of steel-reinforced concrete structures like bridges. Some of these causes include: rebar corrosion, deck delamination, and concrete deterioration.

Rebar Corrosion: reinforced steel within a concrete structure is protected by the thick layer of concrete that covers the material. Although the cement surrounding the metal acts as a protective coat, this structure can experience corrosion or an “electrochemical process.” For example, when water or salts penetrate the steel surface, this leads to corrosion which results in interior strain and cracking that impacts the structural integrity of the bridge. During an inspection, if rust marks that are either black, red, or brown are observed, this may indicate rebar corrosion.

Delamination: when a steel-reinforced structure is going through a corrosion process, this can lead to delamination. Deck delamination occurs when corrosive reinforced steel begins to expand and crack horizontally. One major concern with deck delamination is that this process is not visible on the surface level of the concrete and can slowly impact the structural integrity of a bridge.

Concrete Deterioration: when the strength or durability of concrete begins to reduce, this is considered concrete degradation. For example, microcracking in concrete occurs when non-visible cracks begin forming in the structure. These small cracks form due to cement hydration and other factors.  

If you would like to speak with a Boca Raton construction lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.