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Bridge Design and the American with Disabilities ACT (ADA)

I’m not sure bridge designers are always following the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But to be fair to designers the rules are not always clearly defined.

A proposal by the “Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board”, has been published, proposing accessibility guidelines for the design, construction, and alteration of pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way.

The main guidelines for bridge designers seems to boil down to a few essential rules.


Minimum of 1.2 m (4′-0) wide, for lengths under 61 m (200′-0). Where the clear width of pedestrian access routes is less than 1.5 m (5.0 ft), passing spaces shall be provided at intervals of 61 m (200.0 ft) maximum. Passing spaces shall be 1.5 m (5.0 ft) minimum by 1.5 m (5.0 ft) minimum.

Most states are using a minimum 1.5 m (5′-0) sidewalk the entire length of the bridge.

R302.6 Cross Slope. Except as provided in R302.6.1 and R302.6.2, the cross slope of pedestrian access routes shall be 2 percent maximum.

R302.5 Grade. Except as provided in R302.5.1, where pedestrian access routes are contained within a street or highway right-of-way, the grade of pedestrian access routes shall not exceed the general grade established for the adjacent street or highway. Where pedestrian access routes are not contained within a street or highway right-of-way, the grade of pedestrian access routes shall be 5 percent maximum.

Most states are limiting grade to a 5% maximum for sidewalks.

Joints – big issue in bridges, usually you have to keep them small or cover them with a ADA approved plate.

R302.7.2 Vertical Surface Discontinuities. Vertical surface discontinuities shall be 13 mm (0.5 in) maximum. Vertical surface discontinuities between 6.4 mm (0.25 in) and 13 mm (0.5 in) shall be beveled with a slope not steeper than 50 percent. The bevel shall be applied across the entire vertical surface discontinuity.

Is there a similar document in other counties?

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Open Season on TBG!

Okay I opened the comments section so you can comment anonymously! I’m hoping this great social experiment generates some comments…..

Which leads me to the class I’m teaching in Sketchup at the University. This is the first time I have taught a video course (Thanks for letting me!) and it is hard to get used to the limited feedback I get from students. Well, limited is overstating it, how about zero comments.

Maybe if some of my students are reading this blog they can give me some comments about the class! Remember, anonymous!

Okay on another topic have you visited the Bridge Photo of the Day website lately? The series on Indian bridges is cool…So in honor of Mark, here is his theme song. (Hey why can’t you get Johnny singing live?)

And, as if, the Happy Pontist needs the extra shout out, have you visited his site lately? The suspension bridge between the cliffs is awesome! (The football training bridge, ehhh, not so much.)

I was trying to think what the theme sound of HP should be….well this is obvious and I’m sure anyone under 20 has never heard it.

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Headshots – For Engineering

I hate how I look in a headshot for a paper. You know the stale pose, the bad lighting, sometimes taken in a hallway..(and not much to work with…)

Type in Research paper headshot in google images search and you get a bunch of ehhh, okay images.

Type in Headshot in google images search and things improve.

Why are the headshots of engineers in research papers sooooo bad. I tried to use a picture I took of myself on a jobsite, for my headshot, imagine my surprise when the only picture missing in the article was mine….(hey I liked it)

Maybe we should start a flickr account of engineering headshots? The good, the bad, and the whoa….we need a bigger boat.

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Rebellious Engineering

Rebellious might be a bit strong for this post but I was wondering how engineers personalize their projects?

For example, on one river bridge I designed, I put a sea serpent on the cadd plans. I’m not sure it made it to the final letting plans but I tried.

On another plan set I labeled certain steel bars with my initials as the bar designation. Now this may not be rebellious, maybe more in the vein of immature behavior, but hey, I was trying to set my plans apart from other engineers.

My question is, can you personalize your engineering drawings? If I saw your plans compared to another engineer, could I tell the difference? If not, how can we add our style into a plan set?

Should we have a style?

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Five Questions for an Engineer – Paul Giroux

Paul Giroux is currently working as a District Quality Manager at Kiewit Infrastructure, and has worked on major bridges such as the Skyway bridge in Oakland and the Charles River Bridge in Boston. He has a background in high risk heavy civil engineering projects, submersed tube tunnels and has worked on a number of hydroelectric construction projects.

Paul is also the ASCE Chairman for the Golden Gate Bridge 75th anniversary, which occurs May 27, 2012.

Golden Gate Bridge

Paul was also good enough to come my concrete design class last year and give a great presentation on the history of the Hoover Dam. Thanks Paul!

1) Why did you choose engineering as a profession?

I was raised by a father who encouraged me to learn how to solve problems, to work with tools, build things, and continually learn. Engineering offered a great place to do keep doing the things my father taught me to enjoy.

2) Do you have a favorite project or design (One you worked on or one you admired?)

I have been fortunate to work on some amazing projects throughout the United States. Yet, I am truly fascinated and humbled by the builders of Hoover Dam. Built during the Great Depression, Hoover Dam set the standard for generations of builders.

3) What advice would you give to new engineers entering the field?

  • Don’t wait for opportunity, seek opportunity.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave you’re comfort zone.
  • Push yourself to learn something every day.

4) How does your work with ASCE fit into your career as an engineer?

ASCE projects have provided me a rich and rewarding opportunity to learn from many talented engineers as well as share what I have learned with others.

5) How do you see bridge design changing in the future?

As society comes to grip with dwindling resources, it will need to learn how to design and build more sustainable bridges. From “Sustainable Bridges”, Raymond Paul Giroux, M.ASCE, Aspire Spring 2010.

“Improving the sustainability of our bridges will not come from one change in federal regulations, from one new method of structural analysis, from one new super bridge material, from one new design detail, from one new construction method, from one new maintenance procedure, nor from one new monitoring technique.

The bridge industry will not be able to meet society’s needs for the future with the industry taking a myopic view of what bridges should be. Clear vision and improved sustainability of our bridges will come from all of us in the bridge industry; owners, regulators, the public, academia, designers, and builders working together towards a common goal.”

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Reverse GeoEngineering

From the NewScientist, (oh those wacky engineers worrying about global warming.)

More info here.

In his blog, The Reluctant Geoengineer, Watson argues that we need to investigate the effects of sulphate aerosols as a last-resort remedy should the climate start to change rapidly. Researchers contacted by New Scientist agreed with Watson that such research should continue, if only to find out whether the techniques are feasible. “I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance we’ll end up doing it, because it’ll get too warm and people will demand the planet be cooled off,” says Wallace Broecker of Columbia University in New York. But there was less enthusiasm for SPICE’s approach to the problem.