Old BridgeWhen it comes to maintaining its roads, bridges and other infrastructure, how does the United States rate? A dismal D+ according to the infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The organization estimates that a $3.6 trillion investment is necessary over the next five years to catch up.

Globally, the World Economic Forum ranked our country 20th for the quality of our roads. While the U.S. once represented the best in quality infrastructure, it’s fallen behind — and that’s resulted in a steady increase in emergency repairs.

Budget for Road Improvements Dwindles

The Congressional Budget Office has projected a shortfall of about $13 billion this year for road and rail projects — and the situation is expected to erode further. Increasingly fuel-efficient cars have reduced the revenue power of the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gasoline tax, which hasn’t increased since 1993.

Another significant cause of infrastructure woes has been the failure of Congress to authorize adequate funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund. Federal funding generally provides 30 percent of a project cost with state and local governments covering the remainder. The Highway Trust fund typically distributes $40 billion to $50 billion annually, but the amount has slipped.

Without federal revenues — and with state and local governments experiencing their own budget challenges — roads and bridges continue to deteriorate. As that deterioration reaches a crisis point, transportation departments must be poised to respond quickly.

One State’s Challenge and the Rapid Response

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has 641 bridges listed in critical condition and almost 1,400 bridges weakened to the point of weight restrictions. An emergency situation was inevitable.

During Memorial Day weekend in 2013, two trains collided beneath a highway bridge in southeastern Missouri. The resulting derailment knocked out the bridge’s support piers, causing two of the five spans to collapse. Our team received a call on Sunday and by Monday — Memorial Day — our engineers were already on the job assessing the damage. Preliminary plans for a new three-span, pre-stressed I-girder bridge were ready for MoDOT’s review five days later. Final design was completed within three weeks, and the state reviewed it in one day. The new $2.3 million replacement bridge was constructed within three months of the collapse. Normally, that kind of job would take a year.

New Technology Reduces Disruptions

We pride ourselves on our responsiveness to clients in need. We’re investing in new techniques that enable quick repairs during emergencies and speed scheduled replacement work to reduce the inconvenience to drivers. Precast concrete elements fabricated off-site can be quickly installed to minimize bridge repair time. A new approach called self-propelled modular transport allows a new bridge to be built near the old, and then be wheeled into place on giant multi-axle trailers.

We’re all looking for a long-term solution to the nation’s infrastructure needs — and being mindful of the impact we can make in the short-term. If you’d like to learn more about how to solve emerging and urgent issues with a minimum of disruptions, we’d love to talk it through with you. Comment below or reach out on LinkedIn.

Jugesh Kapur is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell with more than 30 years of experience in bridge design, construction and management. He has been a featured speaker at bridge technical workshops around the world. You can find and connect with Jugesh on LinkedIn.

Photo Credit: Stefan Berkner via Compfight cc


Announcing the 2015 Battle of the Brains Winners!Drumroll please… From everyone at Burns & McDonnell and Science City, we’re excited to name Mason Elementary (elementary) and Pleasant Ridge High School (secondary) the division champions of the third Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competition!

The Burns & McDonnell Foundation distributed $155,000 in STEM education grants to the top 20 finalists, including the $50,000 top prize to both Mason Elementary and Pleasant Ridge High School.

But for Mason Elementary, the good news didn’t stop there. The lucky Lee’s Summit elementary school was awarded the ultimate honor of having their proposal transformed into a million-dollar exhibit at Science City!

More About the Grand Prize Winners

Mason Elementary students’ submission, “Not-So-Simple Simple Machines Playground,” earned the grand prize for their exciting exploration of simple and compound machines. The inventive proposal features a variety of larger-than-life machines, including a tornado slide that resembles a giant screw, a pulley-powered zip line seat and a merry-go-round that looks like a giant tire. Visitors to this future exhibit will test physics on seesaws and explore effort and resistance force with different levers. See for yourself what these students came up with, and what you can expect to see at Science City next year.

Students from Pleasant Ridge High School in the Easton (Kansas) School District won in the secondary category with their submission, “Cultivating the City,” a collection of green technology showcasing urban agriculture at its finest. The heart of the proposal is a structure featuring a city building with a flora-filled rooftop garden, where visitors could dig into a portable potting station, planting seeds of common local-grown plants, climb on a spider web rope and follow the flow of nutrient-rich water from an aquaponics tank.

A Record-Breaking Competition

This year’s Battle of the Brains competition had record-breaking participation: 5,300 students from 210 area schools submitted a total of 520 entries. We were absolutely blown away by the quality and ingenious designs we saw from each and every group!

And the excitement didn’t end with the division champions — we were pleased to award $5,000 to four runners-up:

  • Camp STEM… Science, S’Mores and More — Rosehill Elementary, Shawnee Mission
  • Let’s Get Ready to Rumble — Cordill-Mason Elementary, Blue Springs
  • Newton’s Playground — Pleasant Hill Middle School, Pleasant Hill
  • Living in a Material World — Olathe Northwest High School, Olathe

The remaining 14 finalists each received $2,500 to help fund STEM education at their schools:

  • How it Works: Backyard Science — Stilwell Elementary, Blue Valley
  • Ants Enlarged: Learning from Ants — Bell Prairie Elementary, North Kansas City
  • Mission to Saturn — Green Springs Elementary, Olathe
  • It’s All in Your Head — Longview Farm Elementary, Lee’s Summit
  • Uniquely Kansas City — Highlands Elementary, Shawnee Mission
  • Survive! — Valley Park Elementary, Blue Valley
  • Road Ready: The Science of Bridges & Byways — Bonner Springs, Delaware Ridge, Edwardsville Elementary, Bonner Springs
  • Simple Six — Drexel High School, Drexel
  • Liftoff!KC — Gardner Edgerton High School, Gardner Edgerton
  • Every Which Wave — Olathe North High School, Olathe
  • Nature’s Fault — Summit Technology Academy, Lee’s Summit
  • Know Your Enemy — Oxford Middle School, Blue Valley
  • Electri-City — Belton High School, Belton
  • A Bug’s Eye View — Pleasant Hill Middle School, Pleasant Hill

Now the fun really begins — for the students, and for our team of engineers, architects and construction professionals. Over the next year, the students at Mason Elementary will work alongside our team of STEM professionals to see their classroom dream come to life as the next permanent exhibit at Science City. Stay tuned to the blog for an update as the exhibit progresses, and for the grand opening date in late 2016.

A big congratulations and thank you to everyone who participated in the Battle of the Brains! We can’t wait to see you at Science City’s first outdoor exhibit!


Virtual Reality: Best Practices for CIP Compliant Data Center Infrastructure Virtualization

by Casey Lynch November 17, 2015

As technology continues to change the way the electric power industry operates, utilities are increasingly urged to step into the virtual world with data center infrastructure virtualization. This push has also given rise to the misconception that it’s too difficult to virtualize entire data systems without violating CIP regulations. We’ve been fortunate to spend time […]

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Historic Aviation Complex at Dallas Love Field Getting Its Wings Back

by Pat Brown November 11, 2015

When it opened in 1958 at the beginning of the “Jet Age,” the Braniff Operations and Maintenance Base at Dallas Love Field was widely known as one of the nation’s best pieces of midcentury aviation architecture. The one-of-a-kind, modern facility embodied the spirit of flight in its architecture: Its central building was flanked by two […]

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A Roundup of NERC CIP V5 Comments for Power Utilities

by Michael C. Johnson November 10, 2015

The comment period has ended for modifications to the Critical Infrastructure Protection Version 5 Standards — also known as CIP V5. The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) and other industry stakeholders had until Sept. 21, 2015, to submit comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) on Docket RM15-14-000. […]

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Battle of the Brains Finalists Announced: Time to Vote!

by The Burns & McDonnell Team November 6, 2015

A panel of judges from Burns & McDonnell and Science City have officially announced the finalists for the 2015 Battle of the Brains competition — and now it’s time for you to vote! The top 20 finalists are one step closer to seeing their big idea become a reality as part of this Kansas City […]

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