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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / July 2001

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-RD-01-065
Date: July 2001

States Achieve Safety and Savings with Rapid Deployment for Bridge Painting

Bridge painting is one of the many roadway maintenance activities that can create traffic congestion and safety hazards. In an effort to minimize these delays and hazards, while also reducing costs and maintaining corrosion protection, some States have started testing a system known as rapid deployment for the painting of steel bridges. The main objectives of this progressive concept are to mobilize the necessary equipment, blast and paint the structure, and remove all of the equipment in a series of overnight work shifts, so that traffic can move freely during the day.

Rapid deployment is primarily designed for use on highway overpasses where the structural steel is easily accessible from the roadway below using a mobile work platform. To be successful and to reap the intended benefits, the method requires an array of equipment in good condition, a knowledgeable contractor, and skilled workers.

Unique to the rapid deployment method are the use of mobile work units (a containment device, dust collector, and blast equipment) and a two-coat paint system with a curing accelerant, rather than the traditional three-coat system. Using the method, rapid deployment crews can complete one lane of work per night. Done conventionally, it would normally take 3 days and nights to complete one lane, with the lane unavailable for traffic during this time.

The Ohio Department of Transportation used rapid deployment in a project on I-77 in Canton that involved the surface preparation and painting of two highway overpasses. The rapid deployment team was allowed to close one lane of traffic at 7 p.m., but was required to reopen the lane by 5 a.m. the next day. Their goal was to complete 83 m2 (900 ft2) each day. The team averaged 92 m2 (993 ft2) of work per day, and completed the project in 17 days without once exceeding the time restrictions.

Matt Wagner, an engineer with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, has used the system on two projects. These demonstration projects met with moderate success. Having learned from these early projects, the Turnpike Commission is currently planning a nine-bridge project near Philadelphia that will use the rapid deployment system. "Rapid deployment is a great idea and more transportation agencies may receive benefits by embracing it," says Wagner.

The advantages of using the rapid deployment system include reductions in the size of the work crew needed and a marked decrease in the inconvenience to motorists. The method allows highway agencies to quickly turn around a project that, done conventionally, might cause major traffic delays.

rapid deployment painting is performed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike  rapid deployment painting is performed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

On this German road, lanes have been narrowed prior to reaching a work zone area, allowing the highway agency to keep more lanes open.

There are also economic benefits to using the rapid deployment method. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates a cost of $3.26/ft2-$7.21/ft2 for rapid deployment, compared to $3.02/ft2-$9.77/ft2 for conventional operations. Costs are dependent on the size of the bridge, and savings can be increased with the use of additional crew and equipment.

The rapid deployment method does, however, require a larger initial capital investment in specialized mobile equipment. The containment device for crews must be mounted on a truck bed and have the ability to hydraulically lift into place. This usually means investing in one additional tractor/trailer, as well as paying installation costs. And long-term performance data is not yet available on the method's preferred use of a two-coat paint system with a cure accelerant, as opposed to a conventional three-coat system. A highway agency considering use of the method should also take into account that performing real-time quality assurance checks are essential to the success of any rapid deployment project. Because of the strict time constraints, the project participants must work together smoothly and without mistakes in order for the project to be cost effective.

As knowledge about rapid deployment is gained, more and more States are looking into using the system. Maryland and Virginia, for example, currently have overpass painting projects scheduled that will use the rapid deployment method. "Like anything new, it's a matter of getting the idea out there and getting people used to doing it correctly in order to reap the maximum benefit," says Eric Kline of the consulting firm KTA-Tator, Inc., in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who first developed the concept of rapid deployment. "Other States now have interest as well and see it as an obvious solution to what can be a high costs and untenable delays for motorists," says Kline.

For more information on rapid deployment, contact Eric Kline at KTA-Tator, Inc., 412-788-1300, ext. 206 (email:ekline@kta.com) or Matt Wagner with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, 717-939-9551, ext. 5210 (email:mwagner@paturnpike.com).

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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