A data-driven approach to maintain the health and safety of a flagship bridge in Florida.

Safeguarding Tampa’s gateway through digital innovation

With its scenic views of the water and city, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge serves as a gateway to Tampa Bay, a fast-growing city on the bay side of Florida, US. The safety and integrity of the bridge is a top priority; a tragic accident in 1980 caused by a collision saw the old cantilever truss bridge replaced by the current cable-stayed version.

TYLin, Sidara’s leading transportation specialist, is part of the Sunshine Skyway Preservation team, entrusted with using state-of-the-art technology to manage the bridge’s health. While the new bridge has numerous safety features to protect it from ship collisions, it is still subject to corrosion and cracking from weather exposure and the high traffic volume that most bridges handle. To combat this, the team established real-time structural health monitoring to improve quick decision making – saving money and freeing up time to implement improvements, as well as keeping the bridge safe for the over 50,000 vehicles that cross daily over its 4.1-mile span.

Easily monitor structural health

While TYLin continues to conduct physical inspections and specialized studies such as wind load and sectional model tests for the Sunshine Skyway, the team wanted additional diagnostic tools to quickly and reliably identify and quantify any deficiencies. Real-time monitoring offered a way to monitor multiple elements for wear or damage, and the data it collected could be fed into a digital twin – a virtual representation of the bridge. The team designed, developed, and built 33 customized sensors to measure different aspects of the bridge, including expansion joints, acceleration, cable tension, acoustics, stay cable damper performance, moisture levels, and deflection. Using digital twin technology, the team could then adjust any variables to predict their effect and verify them against real-world results. The results can then be shared and updated with relative ease, improving collaboration and speeding up the process of agreeing on recommended actions.

Benefits of proactive monitoring

Active real-time monitoring fast-tracks our ability to effectively diagnose the symptoms, better understand the behavior of the structure, identify issues, provide vital data for model calibrations and repair design, and help verify the adequacy of the repairs. It allows us to learn more about the effects of weather, climate, and materials on the built environment. This system is widely applicable for all structures because it is cost-effective, portable, and provides reliable data. With each new build and restoration, we make our designs more responsive and more resilient against the elements. This data-driven approach empowers maintenance teams to make more informed decisions and ensures the longevity and safety of the bridge infrastructure.

Project Details

Tampa, Florida, United States

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