Case Study

The Ship Channel Bridge was built in 1982 and carries the Sam Houston Tollway across the Houston Ship Channel, currently handling 60,000 cars a day. Traffic is expected to more than double in 20 years, requiring the construction of a replacement bridge that can accommodate the increasing traffic. The new Ship Channel Bridge will be a concrete and steel cable-stayed bridge scheduled to open in 2024 or 2025 at a cost upwards of $1 billion.

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The Problem

In the planning stages, the local fire marshal requested an explanation on whether a vehicle fire on the bridge could cause a catastrophic failure of the structural components supporting the roadway, endangering the lives of the people on the bridge.

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The Solution

We conducted a performance-based fire hazard analysis to assess the fire resistance of the pylons and cables. We also performed a structural exposure analysis involving computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer models, and an evaluation of material degradation.

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The Results

We were able to conclude that the structural components of the bridge would not fail even when exposed to the most severe fire. This enabled the project to proceed without modifications to the structural components and ensured the safety and integrity of the bridge should an extreme event occur.