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The town of West Vail in Colorado, approximately 160 km west of Denver, is nestled in the Rocky Mountains at a height of about 2500 m above sea level. At this high altitude, the town’s average low temperature falls below freezing point eight months a year, and snowfall is approximately 5 m per year. With such demanding weather conditions, it is little wonder that the Colorado Department of Transportation takes great care in selecting the expansion joints that will facilitate the movements of the bridges on the I-70 interstate highway that passes through the town. In any environmental conditions, a bridge’s expansion joints are susceptible to damage and deterioration from the constant opening and closing movements to which they are subjected and from the loading and abrasion from millions of vehicle wheels. But the demands are typically much greater on an interstate highway in a snowy mountain location, due to low temperatures, the use of salt and grit to improve driving conditions, potential damage from snow-clearing vehicles, and perhaps the use of snow chains or spiked tires by drivers.
The I-70 interstate is an important transcontinental highway that stretches roughly 3500 km from Utah in the western United States to Baltimore, Maryland on the east coast. Taking its responsibility to the highway’s users seriously, the Colorado Department of Transport has taken time to evaluate the suitability of the expansion joints used in the bridges on the highway where it passes through the Rockies. In 2017, the state authority launched a pilot program to assess the durability and performance of the TENSA®POLYFLEX®Advanced flexible plug expansion joint for use on its own highways, with their specific demands and environmental conditions. Four years after a first expansion joint of this type was installed on a bridge on the I-70 where it passes through the mountains, enough evidence had been gained of the joint’s suitability for use, and it was decided to specify its use in two other similar structures. mageba was awarded to supply four expansion joints that were installed in September and October 2021.
For bridge owners that are not able to spend several years evaluating the in-service performance of this expansion joint type before using it more widely, a great deal of confidence can be gained from the experience of its use on bridges all around the world – including as reported on in our previous newsletter articles from applications in Sweden, Canada and Australia. Confidence can also be gained from the extensive laboratory testing to which it has been subjected. For example, the certification testing carried out in connection with the awarding of a European Technical Approval, with validity across the European Union, included
Testing of the material’s bond strength
Assessment of the material’s ageing and temperature characteristics
Mechanical resistance testing
Fatigue resistance testing
Movement capacity testing
Assessment of surface flatness before and after fatigue and movement testing
Skid resistance testing
Testing of resistance to chemicals such as oil, fuel and de-icing agents
Testing of aging due to temperature, ozone, UV-radiation and weathering
Testing of freeze-thaw performance
With so much evidence available from strenuous laboratory testing, combined with the in-service testing of its use on structures all around the world, every bridge owner can have confidence that the TENSA®POLYFLEX®ADVANCED flexible plug expansion joint will provide excellent service for many years – no matter how demanding the environment.
Bridge designer: Colorado Department of Transportation
Contractor: ABCO Contracting, Inc.
Owner: Colorado Department of Transportation