Build a Bridge – Over the Weekend

Innovation in Construction

The civil engineers of the world knew all about this for years now I’m sure, but I’m just a simple lay person. It took a recent feature article in the NY Times to open my eyes about this fascinating, new work in construction (of all things!).

It appears that for the past few (very few!) years, a highly innovative approach to bridge construction has been underway. It is called A B C or Accelerated Bridge Construction. With this innovation, all the elements of the bridge are fabricated offsite and away from the roads and traffic. Then, when all is ready, the bridge is put in place in a matter of a few (very few!) days

The article I referred to, called Did Someone Order An Instant Bridge? talks about how the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) finished a bridge in one day. ONE DAY! It was accomplished over a weekend with minimal disruption of traffic.

Done the traditional way, that bridge would have taken months.  And they have been able to bring it down to this –  like I said, fascinating!

In addition to minimal disruption, this innovation is said to have improved work zone and worker safety (just the reduction in time of workers on site would do that!) and improved product quality due to the controlled environment and easier access to build the bridge. Offsite.

The US Appears to be Lapping it up!

Of course, I had to explore this some more!  Here’s a great primer on A B C for anyone interested in learning more about it. Turns out that more and more state DOTs are using this method, or considering using it.

In Utah, they have actually transformed their thinking and now their default position for any bridge construction is to consider A B C first.  They have used some form of A B C in 19 projects and 77 bridges.  In one case—in Salt Lake City—construction time was reduced by 120 days, saving drivers an estimated $4.2 million in terms of construction delays. Wow!

The concept is to fabricate entire bridge spans off-site and move them into place with self-propelled modular transports (SPMTs). 

Here’s an awesome time-lapse video of an A B C project in the state of Oregan. It lasts just over 1 minute. But what’s really awesome is the way that bridge is constructed – in no more than four days!

My hats off to the civil engineers that created this innovation. Multitudes of bridges (about a fourth of the 600,000 bridges) are in disrepair in the US and I can see how this is a boon to state governments, not to mention the people using said bridges. The federal government has provided funds for just this purpose. That’s even better!

Oh dear, as for Construction in India…

Now, here’s what I was thinking.  Has anyone watched anything being constructed in India? If you have been here, of course, you have. And it doesn’t take months. It takes years….long years. So, on your second, third and fourth trip here, you will see the same construction project still very much ‘in progress’. For sure, the disruption around it has not gone anywhere.  😦

Traffic is entirely disrupted, people’s lives are disrupted, businesses along the way are disrupted…but what does anyone care? 

Okay, let’s ‘Think Positive’

Imagine if India could adopt this approach!

There are no real reasons why it cannot.  Cost is ultimately lower. Availability of technologies is not an issue especially with an increasing number of global infrastructure firms and collaborations operating in this country. If this innovation is needed anywhere in the world, it would be here.

Just think about some of the recent technologies that this country has adopted quickly – simply leap-frogging years of testing, research and development by other countries – just because it was late to the party.  The best example I can provide is that of mobile phones. Today, India has more mobile phones and a more pervasive use of this technology than any Western country that started or actually developed it.

Well, couldn’t the same thing apply to construction of bridges?

I checked to see if there were any examples or leads where there was some experimentation or even talk of using A B C in India. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any.  

Yet, bridges (including “fly-overs”) are being constructed in virtually every city, big and small. And huge numbers more are yet to be built. 

Anyone who Thinks this Way, Deserves to get Elected!

I can only hope that somewhere in India – whether in the public sector or private industry – this paradigm-shifting option is being seriously explored and scoped out. [Progressive Gujarat would be a good place to start].

Think what a panacea it could be if India could indeed build a bridge. Over the weekend. 



Photo: Ashlyak at ml.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


Posted on June 4, 2012, in india and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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