"No silver bullet" in keeping ice off Penobscot Narrows Bridge

6:44 PM, Jan 28, 2014   |    comments
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PROSPECT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's been one month since the Penobscot Narrows Bridge was shut down for the first in the bridge's history.

Ice chunks described to be the size of basketballs that accumulated following the December ice storm fell from suspension cables onto roadway, damaging several cars.

MaineDOT Bridge Maintenance Engineer John Buxton says he did a lot of researching back when ice accumulated on the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. He looked into other bridges across the country that experienced similar issues

"They have a similar bridge in Toledo. It's a cable-stayed bridge and they were having some icing issue. They put some monitors on the bridge with the temperatures and rainfall and things like that to predict when the bridge may ice," said Buxton.  

Which is step one of a three-step process for them. While the designs of the bridges are similar, there's one part that seperates them, making the Maine bridge a bit more difficult to deal with.

"They are both cable-stayed bridges but the sheaths around our tendon are a high density plastic where as the ones in Toledo are steel. The steel conducts heat a lot better so any sunshine or any warmth on the sheaths will go all the way around the sheaths where the situation we had on the sunny side of the bridge there was hardly any ice and then on the shady side there was up to an inch an inch and a quarter of ice," said Buxton.

Buxton says he doesn't think there is a lot of good technology out there for preventing icing, but some bridges like the Port Mann bridge in Canada are looking at some concepts including a robotic sweeper for the stays  

"But I don't hold a lot of faith in that because my feeling is given the freezing rain and temperatures it may act just like a zamboni and everytime it goes up and down the stays it leaves a thin layer of ice on it. It's kind of wait and see what happens," said Buxton.    

And hope that what happened in December, doesn't happen again in the near future.

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