June 20, 2008

Tobin Bridge to Get $1 Million Stress Sensors

By O'Ryan Johnson, Boston Herald

Jun. 20--The green hulk in Boston Harbor known as the Tobin Bridge is getting a $1 million early warning system to detect structural failures in the millions of tons of steel and concrete before it buckles and cars plummet into the Mystic River.

A Burlington company was awarded a contract yesterday to complete initial testing of the bridge, then begin installing the wireless stress sensors on some of the steel beams used to prop the two-mile long behemoth within about six months, according to a spokeswoman.

Massport's board of directors approved the installation during a meeting yesterday, saying in a statement that the addition of the technology will make the Tobin the state's first smart bridge.

Danny Levy, spokeswoman for Massport, said the new system will back up the various types of human testing performed every two and four years.

Last year, the upper deck of the aging bridge was closed to heavy tractor trailers and buses when engineers spotted cracks in supporting beams in the 57-year-old steel. Two months before, workers installed netting beneath the bridge when chunks of concrete fell and damaged boats on the Chelsea side.

"We spend considerable effort to make sure the Tobin Bridge remains in satisfactory condition," said Joe Staub, deputy director of the Tobin Bridge. "This exciting new analysis program has the potential to be an early detection system enabling us to address conditions as they develop and before they become potential problems."

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