We Know Bridge Engineering: All Roads Lead to Purdue

Nearly 3,000 participants gathered in West Lafayette, Indiana earlier this month for the Purdue Road School, a 4-day event focusing on all things transportation. GAI Transportation Services Director Mike Wenning, PE shared his bridge engineering expertise with budding ‘Road Scholars,’ helping present the event’s Bridge Basics course.

A Comprehensive Forum for Transportation Topics

The learning and networking event at Purdue University offered nearly 200 hours of technical sessions and a range of opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction and idea exchange.

“Purdue Road School is a 105-year-old training and networking meeting for professionals in all transportation fields,” said Wenning. Purdue Road School attendance has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, and the event offers a wide variety of industry exhibitors in addition to a number of educational and training tracks. Wenning is a repeat Purdue Road School presenter, and in 2018 took part a discussion of GAI’s high-priority project to design swift repairs for the busy Rockville Road Bridge over I-465 in Indianapolis after the underside of the span was struck and damaged by a large ‘car crusher’ vehicle.

Rockville Road
Responders on the scene after a ‘car crusher’ damaged Indianapolis’ Rockville Road Bridge on Jan. 10, 2017.

Helping Educate Road Scholars

The Bridge Basics course that Wenning helped present at Purdue Road School 2019 is part of the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Road Scholar program. “LTAP is a nationwide group that has a representative body in each state,” said Wenning. “Its purpose is to transfer technical knowledge to the local units of government.” The Indiana LTAP provides technical assistance and training to the highway, road, and street departments of 92 counties, 117 cities, and more 450 towns in the state. Participants who complete the LTAP Road Scholar program are awarded the title ‘Road Builder.’

“All told, the Road Scholar program includes roughly 300 hours of training in 12 key transportation topics,” said Wenning. In addition to Bridge Basics, the Indiana Road Scholar program’s core courses include Asset Management for Street and Highway Departments, Liability and Risk Management, Highway Funding, Public Purchasing, Roadway Safety, Basics of a Good Road, Temporary Traffic Control, Indiana Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Drainage, Road and Bridge Plan Reading, and Estimating Local Road Maintenance Work.  (Find out more about the Indiana LTAP Road Scholar program.)

Bridge Engineering Basics … and Beyond

The Bridge Basics Road Scholar course discussed bridge technology, structure types, design, maintenance, inspection, and funding for local bridges in Indiana. One of four presenters, Wenning kicked off the Bridge Basics course with a discussion of bridge design.

“The course is targeted to non-engineers and aims to give them the background needed to interact successfully with technical professionals when approaching bridge engineering design and construction,” said Wenning. “I discuss various bridge components, the loads that are applied to bridges, structure lifespan, short-term and long-term building and maintenance solutions, failure mechanisms, and more.”

Wenning, Vice Chairman of the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Structures Committee, comes abundantly qualified to offer insight into the world of bridge engineering. “I’ve been doing bridge work for close to 40 years,” said Wenning. “I’ve been fortunate to have played a part in several innovations over my career—from designing the longest jointless/integral bridge in Indiana to being involved in the state’s first cathodically-protected bridge.”

“Today, I’m taking part in research with Purdue University to further advance jointless bridge design … I’m always looking for ways to deploy new technology.”

However, Wenning is not content to simply look back upon his indisputably impressive bridge engineering history. “Today, I’m taking part in research with Purdue University to further advance jointless bridge design by incorporating ‘link slab’ components that replace the expansion joints commonly found in bridges and provide more reliable long-term performance with lower maintenance,” said Wenning. “I’m always looking for ways to deploy new technology—and in addition to sharing my past experience with attendees, the Indiana Road School offers a fulfilling opportunity to pass along that innovative spirit.”

Contact Mike Wenning, PE, 317.436.4819, for more information about GAI’s transportation infrastructure and bridge engineering services.

Michael Wenning, PE specializes in managing and designing transportation projects for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), the Ohio Department of Transportation, county governments, and more. With over 500 bridge rehabilitation projects and more than 350 new bridge projects to his credit, Mike is involved with several professional organizations and has served on the Society Board of Direction for American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) both as Director and Treasurer. He is currently the Vice Chairman of INDOT’s Structures Committee, and a member of INDOT’s Wall Committee. 

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