Trends Winter 2015 - Page 9

underneath from the bucket of an under-bridge inspection vehicle, or Aspen Aerial. “When you’re out there over the deepest part of that gorge, and you’re out there over the side and those big trucks are going along and they bounce you around in the bucket, it kind of makes you feel like you’re on one of the better rides at the amusement park.” While NMSU team members inspected things like the bridge deck, abutments, curbs, and railings, as well as steel truss members just underneath the bridge using the Aspen Aerial, Ayres Associates’ team rappelled down to the bottom chord from the deck at the middle of the center span. Inspectors moved along one bottom chord each day, from the middle of the center span to each abutment, documenting conditions such as protective coating failure, deteriorated fasteners and corrosion and searching for any potentially harmful cracks. The team also took digital photos and video, providing information to NMSU to include in the overall inspection report submitted to the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT). Hiring experts to perform the bottom chord inspections saves the University – and ultimately NMDOT – money and time because it’s an efficient and cost-effective method to access that portion of the bridge, White said. “It’s very difficult to gain access and be able to look at all of those components from an arm’s-length perspective,” White said. “The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is a great example of that. No one is going to go out there and look underneath at the center of that bridge without the right equipment.” David Jauregui, NMSU’s department head of civil engineering who directs the bridge inspection program, said he has been extremely satisfied with Ayres Associates’ services. The bottom chord inspections are an important part of the overall bridge evaluation, he said, and the Ayres team has provided important details and recommendations in reports. “We hit the ground running with Brian and Ayres,” he said. “It was like we had been working together for years. It has a lot to do with the experience that both agencies – Ayres and NMSU – have accumulated over the years. It really makes all our jobs easier to do. The communication between Ayres and NMSU has been second to none.” Jauregui and Schroeder said the Gorge Bridge is in great shape overall. Schroeder said he used lessons learned from the 2013 inspection to bring efficiencies to completing this year’s work, such as how to better maneuver on the bridge and focusing on previous problem areas to save time. This year personnel from Abseilon USA, an Arizona firm specializing in rope access work, assisted Schroeder, who said this inspection is one of the highlights of his career. “The view – you can see such a long way. I don’t even know how to put a number of miles on it,” he said. “There’s a lot of passers-by, and people get to see the view from up above. But down below you have fewer people obviously. You don’t have cars passing by. It’s certainly a quieter, more peaceful perspective. "It’s some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen," Schroeder said. "I get to see a place that most people don’t get to see.” TRENDS │9