Larry Fahnestock helping Illinois bridge the gap

8/1/2019 3:12:38 PM

By McCall Macomber

It’s a well-known fact that Illinois bridges and roadways need improvement. Earlier in July, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a $45-billion package of bills known as “Rebuild Illinois” to begin transforming the state’s infrastructure.

Such a key piece of legislation helps fuel momentum for transportation researchers who work with the Illinois Center for Transportation (ICT) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Meet Larry Fahnestock, principal investigator for ICT and IDOT’s joint research project R27-194: Evaluation of Spatial and Temporal Load Distribution in Steel Bridge Superstructures, which takes a closer look at how bridges carry loads and respond to those loads over time.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) professor could not be more delighted to be serving on the project, where he and fellow researchers are set to install data-collection instruments on two new bridges in Champaign along Mattis Avenue over I-74 and I-57. Once complete, estimated by 2020, he and his colleagues will examine data to understand two key elements — spatial and temporal load distribution.

Spatial distribution refers to the manner in which traffic loads spread through a bridge during day-to-day operation. Temporal load distribution, on the other hand, considers a bridge’s temperature-related effects, which vary gradually over time, but can include large seasonal changes, especially here in Illinois where weather can range from very hot in summer to very cold in winter.

He also served as the co-PI on several other ICT projects, including:

Reports 1 and 2 for “R27-070: Calibration and Refinement of Illinois’ Earthquake Resisting System Bridge Design Methodology”

Reports 1 and 2 for “R27-115: Analysis of Superstructures of Integral Abutment Bridges”

Reports 1 and 2 for “R27-133: Calibration and Refinement of Illinois Earthquake Resisting System Bridge Design Methodology, Phase II”

Fahnestock is grateful for the opportunity to conduct such innovative research alongside “many excellent students” with a collaborative “team effort” from several key colleagues, including James LaFave, CEE professor; Doug Foutch, CEE professor emeritus; Jerome Hajjar, Northeastern University professor; Mark Shaffer, IDOT policy, standards and final plan control unit chief and technical review panel chair; and Dan Tobias, IDOT engineer and TRP chair.

He is especially thankful to work in close cooperation with the transportation leaders at ICT and IDOT.

“The partnership of ICT, IDOT and the University of Illinois provides great benefit because it identifies practical needs that affect the public and then develops solutions,” Fahnestock said. “That’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, with our research having an impact on the real world.”