Rice research IDs vulnerable bridges in Galveston area
Early results from research at Rice University show more than a dozen Gulf Coast bridges on or near Galveston Island would more than likely suffer severe damage if exposed to a hurricane with a similar landfall as Hurricane Ike and with 30 percent stronger winds.
Being aware of which bridges are most at risk of damage in a strong hurricane can help public safety officials, according to Rice assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering Jamie Padgett.
"We've been sharing these findings with emergency management agencies," Padgett said in a news release. "Some of the groups, particularly in the Clear Lake area, are interested in this information so they can plan emergency response routes or at least do some hypothetical scenarios to think through their responses."
Padgett is also the head of a research team examining the performance of dozens of bridges in the Houston-Galveston region to determine how well bridges would hold up against hurricanes from their assessment of damage done by 2008’s Ike, which was the third-costliest storm in American history.
Padgett and Matthew Stearns, a former undergraduate student in her lab, have published a book looking at the effect of hurricanes on bridges titled, "Lessons From Hurricane Ike." The duo has also written a paper published in the American Society of Civil Engineers journal on the impact of Ike. The paper evaluates the Rollover Pass Bridge on the Bolivar Peninsula, as well as 52 other bridges.
Padgett, who earned a coveted CAREER Award in 2011 from the National Science Foundation to model sustainable solutions for bridge infrastructure subjected to multiple threats, said there are also fixes available to help existing bridges.
"Through our work, we've identified some simple solutions," added Padgett, who is also studying bridges in California and Charleston, S.C. "Adding details and retrofits to the structures, like shear keys or tie-downs, are potential solutions that would help protect bridges during hurricanes."
Padgett said the Houston Endowment's support of the SSPEED Center, along with her NSF award, are critical to her work. Her group also studies the impact of earthquakes on bridges.
"Infrastructure reliability is certainly a hot topic worldwide," Padgett said. "We try to pick strategic locations that have an array of threats."