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How is Winter Weather So Hard on Bridge Utilities?

Posted by Edward Dill on Jan 17, 2018 9:48:00 AM

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Winter weather does a number on bridge-attached utilities. Bridges themselves are susceptible to tremendous damage during the winter months; preparation is key to ensuring their utility attachments can weather winter without issue.

What in particular makes winter so hard on bridge-attached utilities? Here are five wintertime factors that really take a toll on bridges.

 

Ice

Ice, of course, is winter’s greatest threat. Accumulated ice isn’t just dangerous for the vehicles and pedestrians who use bridges, it’s also incredibly impactful on the structural components of bridgework. Ice is very heavy, and bridges ice before their surroundings. In turn, they retain ice longer than the areas around them, often for weeks at a time. The excessive weight of ice can strain structural elements of bridge utilities and also drag on attachment points. Falling chunks of ice can damage utilities, too, by striking pipes directly or hitting sensitive joints.

 

Snow

Like ice, snow is inherently heavy. In places where snow can accumulate over a period of weeks and even months, that weight eventually adds up, posing the same dangers as excessive ice. Additionally, as snow melts, moisture builds up which can lead to corrosion on metal fittings, braces, and on pipes themselves.

 

Salt

Corrosion is also an unwanted side effect of salt, which is used in most regions to de-ice roadways and of course, bridges. Rust is expedited by the presence of salt, and because a salt film can build up gradually, its effects are often hard to see. Pre-treating sensitive bridge utilities with anti-corrosive materials and/or wraps can be an effective way to mitigate the effects of road salt.

 

Freezing Temperatures

Low temperatures affect the tensile strength of almost all common building materials. Metal and plastics, in particular, become brittle at temperatures below freezing, and especially so in parts of the country that see sub-zero temperatures regularly. Improperly-maintained bridge pipelines can crack and even fracture in freezing conditions, as can their supporting components. Insulation is typically the answer.

 


The time to consider bridge maintenance is before winter sets in, not after. In fact, bridge-utilities maintenance is something that should be scheduled annually, and more often in areas that experience extreme seasonality.

Aptus is a leader in the maintenance of bridge-attached utilities. Our teams install, service, and troubleshoot bridge utilities in nearly every state in the country. Over our decades in business, we’ve learned a thing or two about preparing bridges to weather winter’s grasp.

Do you have questions about the particular vulnerabilities of a bridge utility pipeline? Reach out to our specialists today to get started and find out how to protect your utilities through this winter and the next.

Topics: Bridges, Utilities, Bridge Utilities