Unique Bridge Surface Proves Safer

By: Robert Borrelli
By: Robert Borrelli

About 32,000 vehicles pass over the Ironwood Bridge on the U.S.20 Bypass every day.

However, the bridge surface is the only one of its type in the state.

Most bridges freeze first because cold air gets underneath.

However, this bridge is different. The pavement on one side is a rough surface that makes driving safer.

Ever since it opened to traffic in the mid 80's, drivers on the U.S. 20 Bypass have had problems.

Snow and ice leads to slide-offs and accidents.

But since 2005, the eastbound lane of the bypass bridge over Ironwood Drive has experienced fewer problems because of a different type of bridge surface.

It's a surface that's specially designed to help keep snow and ice from building up on the road's surface.

Steve Giese is operations manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation. "The traction control is great; you can see how rough it is. That is great for summer, winter, spring and fall. We've had zero problems with this."

The bridge was chosen for several reasons, which include:

  • The bypass, at that point, is banked, on a curve and in partial shade because of sound barriers along the southside.
  • The rough surface, called "Safe Lane", actually traps salt and salt brine.

    Giese says, "A standard deck covering is just concrete, which it does have a little roughed-up surface, but it does freeze over real quick. Because the air up underneath cools it down quicker. Where with this, it's more like a chip-seal project where the stone is better for traction, more grit, it holds the salt brine.”

    Any snow that falls is plowed-off quicker, leading to less build-up that can cause vehicles to slip and slide.

    Since the new surface was installed, no accidents have been reported on the eastbound lane due to snow or ice.

    "This is the best thing I’ve seen on the market,” says Giese.

    In early February, when the temperature got down to minus-7, the Ironwood Bridge had no problems.

    Salt that normally doesn't work below minus-6, worked there.

    INDOT tells us it's about 50-percent more expensive than standard concrete, but state highway officials say they're trying to get more of the new surface put on more bridges.

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