MIAMI A 1,000-ton barge rammed into a pier supporting
an aging bridge over Florida's Apalachicola Bay last week,
delighting civil engineers, who plan to ram it a dozen more
The old St. George Island Causeway Bridge was scheduled for
demolition anyway, so the Florida Department of Transportation
and engineers at the University of Florida set up a $1 million
experiment to collect crash-impact data that will help them
design safer bridges.
"It's something that we don't get to do very often,"
Henry Bollman, senior bridge designer with the department,
said Monday as engineers planned two more rammings.
The bridge and the barge are fitted with more than 150 sensors
to provide a microsecond-by-microsecond record of the impact
as the barge hits the bridge at increasingly faster speeds.
The data collected from the crash tests could affect national
design codes, the engineers said.
They rented the 150-foot barge from a contractor who built
the newly opened replacement bridge connecting the small town
of East Point to St. George's Island.
When the tests are done, the experimenters will pay to have
the vessel repaired. The bridge will be demolished and the
pieces sunk to create an artificial reef for fish.