The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) today announced that a new structural monitoring system will be put in place on the Tobin Bridge over the next 18 months. Massport’s board today approved a permanent high-tech monitoring system, which will make the Tobin the state’s first “smart bridge.”
The technology will allow Massport engineers to better understand the causes of stresses on the bridge. Investing in this innovative technology enhances -- but will not replace -- Massport’s schedule of inspections which are done every two years and an in depth inspection every four years. The technology will allow the Authority to address any concerns immediately. Massport is acting proactively because the technology is available and it will buttress Massport’s efforts to maintain the bridge in good overall condition.
The system was included in an amended $21.7 million project budget for the Tobin Bridge. The amendment will fund a contract worth roughly $1 million with Burlington, Mass. engineering firm Fay, Spofford & Thorndike. The contract calls for the firm to conduct a finite element analysis of forces and strains on the bridge using a three-dimensional computer engineering model of the entire 2-1/4 mile long Tobin Bridge.
The model will be calibrated against actual conditions and then wireless sensors will be attached to areas of the bridge. The sensors’ continuous stream of data will provide important real-time information about stresses and loads on the bridge, as well as environmental conditions and corrosion. The computer modeling, calibration and installation of the sensors should be complete by 2010.
“Massport’s priority is to ensure the Tobin Bridge remains a well-maintained, structurally-sound and operationally safe and efficient transportation facility for the traveling public,” said Thomas J. Kinton, Jr., CEO & Executive Director of Massport. “We already employ a comprehensive schedule of regular two and four year inspections in which every square foot of the bridge is checked. This new smart bridge technology will supplement those inspections and take our stewardship of the bridge to the next level.”
“We spend considerable effort to make sure the Tobin Bridge remains in satisfactory condition,’’ said Joe Staub, Deputy Director of the Tobin Bridge. “This exciting new analysis program has the potential to be an early detection system enabling us to address conditions as they develop and before they become potential problems.”
Some 80,000 motorists use the Tobin Bridge each day. The bridge, which opened to traffic in 1950, is a major artery connecting Boston to the North Shore. Massport has developed a carefully phased maintenance program – including painting and redecking – to ensure the long-term viability of the bridge.