High-Tech Bridges Marry Function and Beauty
The Global Innovation Series is presented by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.
Bridges have been around as long as humans wanted to go places. A simple log or tree was used to bridge a gap in the land. Today’s bridges are so much more than utilitarian structures that enable you to get from point A to point B. They add aesthetic value and, in many ways, represent the region around it.
Thanks to the growth of modern technology, new and existing bridges are incorporating highly advanced design features and construction to ensure efficiency and safety. From an arch bridge with a dynamic light display that can tell you whether there’s a full or crescent moon to structures that collect data about bridge conditions with sensors, bridges are becoming smarter on a global level. Check out the smart bridges below, and let us know in the comments if you have a smart bridge in your town.
Dubai’s Bold Bridge
One of the biggest regions for bridge design and development is the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In fact, Dubai is gearing up to construct the world’s tallest and longest-spanning arch bridge, called the Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Crossing, or the Sixth Crossing Bridge.
Although the bridge’s construction is currently on hold due to the sluggish global economy — it was originally scheduled to open later this year — it will likely start construction by the end of 2012, according to the bridge’s design firm, FxFowle.
Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Crossing — which will cost an estimated $817 million to construct — will connect old and new Dubai over the Dubai Creek and create a new icon for the nation. When finished, it will transport more than 2,000 cars in either direction each hour, in addition to serving as a track for Dubai’s Metro Green subway line. The mile-long bridge will feature two arches soaring 670 feet in the air.
“Not only is the bridge big in stature, we wanted the design to reflect and be a symbol of the local culture, climate and people,” Sudhir Jambhekar, senior partner at FxFowle, told Mashable.
Although the bridge’s arch form is a common solution for covering long distances, the design was created to evoke the creek’s current and the country’s sand dunes. In addition, the bridge’s lighting design is based on the lunar cycle of the Muslim calendar.
“There are a lot of opportunities for innovative lighting on bridges,” Jambhekar explains. “We didn’t want to play with the coloration of the bridge, but wanted to focus on lighting. In addition to functional lighting for the roadways and signage, decorative lighting is becoming a bigger trend.”
For example, drivers will be able to tell if it’s a full moon or crescent moon based on how the bridge is lit — if there is no moon in the sky, little decorative lighting will be activated, but on a full moon night, more decorative lights will be on.
At the bridge’s midpoint, you’ll find a ferry terminal and an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and programs.
But Dubai isn’t the only country ramping up its bridging efforts: “All of the Asian countries, from Korea and China to India, are building new infrastructures right now,” Jambhekar says. “India is just starting to build structures that were needed for a long time. We are also starting to see some growth in Africa, as well.”
Bridge Technology Stateside
Bridges in the U.S. are also embracing modern technology — even iconic bridges that have been around for years. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this weekend, is working on a series of high-tech projects that will be incorporated into the landmark over the next few years.
The Golden Gate Bridge, which was once considered too dangerous to build amid San Francisco’s heavy winds and regional earthquakes, is gearing up to add some high-tech features.
“The biggest technology project we are working on right now is switching to electronic tolling, which will have a soft launch in December and a full roll-out in February,” says Mary Currie, public affairs director of the Golden Gate Bridge. “About 70% of drivers on the Golden Gate bridge use FasTrak — which allows drivers to pay tolls on California’s bridges and toll roads without stopping — and more are expected to use the system soon. For those without it, there will be a slew of options, from having the information on your license plate snapped and later sent an invoice to third-party and telephone options.”
The Golden Gate Bridge team is also working on adding a $20 million communication system that features GPS tracking on buses, so people at bus stops can keep track of public transportation arrivals in real time.
“We are also in the final design stages of a suicide barrier net project, which will prevent and impede people from committing suicide off of the bridge,” Currie says. “The nets, which will extend 20 feet and be anchored with steel, are expected to be completed in 2013, but we don’t have the $45 million needed right now to construct the initiative. We have been looking in Sacramento, Calif. and Washington D.C. to get federal funding.”
In addition, the infamous I-35 Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis — which collapsed in August 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145 — reopened in September 2008 under the name I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, with the addition of sensors that check and measure the bridge’s conditions. The 323 sensors acquire data compiled and analyzed by the University of Minnesota to monitor deck movement, stress and temperature and to ensure safety and reliability.
What type of technology do you think should be incorporated into new and existing bridges? Let us know in the comments.
Series presented by BMW i
The Global Innovation Series is presented by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.
Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.
Via: Mashable » Tech