Trends Winter 2015 - Page 8

To get a feel for what inspectors go through working 500 feet about the Rio Grande Gorge, visit website here or scan the QR code at the right. Structures like the Gorge Bridge have a steel member in tension, or with a tension element, whose failure could cause a portion or the entire structure to collapse. NMSU hired Ayres Associates as a subconsultant to inspect the bottom chord using rope access. The steel deck arch bridge, about 12 miles northwest of Taos, was built in 1965 and just celebrated its 50th birthday shortly before the NMSU team performed its work. The bridge is 1,200 feet long with two 300-foot-long end spans and a 600-foot-long main center span. The structure received a $2.4 million makeover in 2012 that included repairing and restoring structural steelwork and adding a new concrete deck surface, sidewalks, ramps, curbs, and gutters. “There are places here in New Mexico that are quite beautiful, but this location is special,” said Ken White, professor emeritus at NMSU and founder of the University’s bridge inspection program. He should know. White has been inspecting this bridge and dozens more in New Mexico since the early 1970s when the National Bridge Inspections Program began. It took as much as 10 weeks to complete the Gorge Bridge inspection in the early days, White said. The effort now takes about a week thanks to more sophisticated equipment and inspector skill sets. “It still gets your heart going,” said White, who spends much of his time now examining the bridge 8│TRENDS