Webuild proposes Baltimore Bridge design

VIDEO: The project in the US state of Maryland to replace the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge was made free of charge ahead of tomorrow’s state-led virtual industry forum for reconstruction of the bridge.
Highway & Network Management / May 6, 2024 2 minutes Read
By David Arminas
Proposed Baltimore Bridge, concept design (image courtesy WeBuild/Carlo Ratti Associati/Michel Virlogeux)

Webuild, through its US subsidiary Lane, has proposed a replacement cable-stayed bridge between the harbour of the US city Baltimore and the open Atlantic ocean.

Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed earlier this year after a ship slammed into a pier.

Webuild said its offer, pro bono – without cost - to US authorities for design and reconstruction of the bridge was drawn up as a sign of solidarity and friendship with the US, according to a statement from the company.

The preliminary proposal was drafted in collaboration with architect Carlo Ratti, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux.

"We at Webuild and our US subsidiary Lane are ready to make ourselves available, to quickly restore this strategic bridge for local mobility," said Pietro Salini, chief executive of Webuild.

It was sent by way of a letter to the US Secretary of Transportation, the governor of Maryland, the director of the Maryland Port Administration and the US ambassador to Italy.

“We will take part, on May 7, in the Maryland Transportation Authority’s Virtual Industry Forum for the reconstruction of the bridge and are ready to help in any way we can at this stage in the spirit of pro bono service. The design concept of the bridge that we have been working on incessantly during this last month will represent a key contribution towards the design and reconstruction or new construction of the bridge.”

The collapse of the Baltimore Bridge, one of the busiest in the area, had a significant impact on regional and global mobility. “We are aware of the importance of this infrastructure from a logistical and commercial point of view, with more than 1.4 million local residents and tens of thousands of commuters directly affected by the collapse of the bridge,” Salini said.

Genoa remembered

“We previously fielded our expertise on the occasion of the tragic collapse of the Genoa Bridge in Italy in 2018, made at cost without profit for the group, which resulted in the death of 43 people and complete standstill of the city and the port - among the most important in Italy.”

Webuild built the new Genoa Bridge in Italy after it collapsed during a storm, in about one year, despite restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Webuild said it’s proposal for Baltimore includes a cable-stayed bridge that also aims to improve safety, adaptability and sustainability. It is assumed, for example, that the navigable clearance, the space that a ship needs to pass under the bridge, will be 65m, which is much greater than that of the collapsed bridge. The bridge’s span will be enlarged to about 700m, with the main pylons positioned in much shallower water and away from the navigation channel.

All this will allow the Port of Baltimore to remain an important international port for years to come, said Webuild.

A wider carriageway is also planned, with the increase of one lane in each direction and the widening of emergency lanes, in response to the increased traffic levels on the bridge. The proposed new smart features will also enable safer traffic management and the use of predictive maintenance techniques. “We would also envisage the use of more sustainable materials to preserve the ecosystem of the Patapsco River.”

Webuild, with 120 years of experience in more than 50 countries around the world, said it has a long successful history in the construction of bridges and viaducts. This includes iconic projects such as the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge in the US state of California, the A. Max Brewer Bridge in Florida state and the Second and Third Bosphorus Bridges in Turkey.

Last year saw the inauguration of the Danube Bridge in Braila, Romania, the second longest suspension bridge in continental Europe, with a central span of 1,120m. Webuild is also the leader of the consortium that will build a bridge over the Strait of Messina between southwest Italy and Sicily, once approval is given. The project will see the construction of the longest suspension bridge in the world, with an overall length of 3.66km and a suspended span of 3.3km.

Good Vibrations

The proposal for Baltimore was developed together with Carlo Ratti, co-founder of the design studio CRACarlo Ratti Associati, who, in the context of the Good Vibrations project with the MIT Senseable City Lab, presented innovative studies on the structural monitoring of bridges. The Good Vibrations project involved development of a mobile phone app that collects vibrational data on bridges.

French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux will bring to the project his experience in some of the most important cable-stayed bridges, including the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon and the world's highest bridge, the Millau Viaduct in France.

"Opting for a cable-stayed solution enables the piles to be positioned at a safe distance, well away from the navigation channel used by large vessels and hence preventing the risk of a tragedy such as the one of March 26 happening again,” said ," commented Carlo Ratti, professor at MIT and founding partner of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati. “This approach also provides a light-weight solution to reconnect two sides of Baltimore, both socially and economically.”

Meanwhile, US insurer Chubb is preparing to pay US$350 million to the US state of Maryland for the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore in March 2024. The bridge was insured by Chubb but a Singapore-flagged container ship collided with it, resulting in the death of six people. WTW, the broker for the bridge's insurance policy, said the payment is expected to be authorised within weeks.


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