The Honeycutt Road Bridge over I-540 is a step into the future, and a leap toward big savings for North Carolina taxpayers. The bridge was designed by a newly formed team of DOT engineers.
Until recently, bridge design took hundreds of hours, with blueprints on drafting tables. Now, the only use for the old tables is to hold up specially programmed computers that are changing the way the state builds bridges.
"The program will design our bridge components and then draft them for us. It will create the bridge contract plans that we need for someone to build the bridge," says Rodger Rochelle, DOT engineer.
Dozens of engineers like Rochelle are linked into one program. The process is much faster and more efficient than the old way.
Most of the pages of information look pretty confusing, but through the eyes of an engineer, it saves time, effort and money -- about 100 hours of design time on every bridge.
"We may save $10,000 to $20,000 just in the design effort alone per bridge. Suppose we do 40 or 50 bridges a year. Now we're talking savings annually of a quarter of a million dollars and up in years to come," says Rochelle.
Engineers can even show off a bridge before it is built.
For example, a bridge is needed over a stream in Rutherford County. Engineers already know what the finished product will look like.
The DOT's computer design program saves time and money with new bridges, but it does not stop there. Engineers can download information on wear and tear on existing bridges, streamlining the job of repairing older spans.
The DOT needs to cut costs. These engineers are trying to do it one bridge at a time.
The DOT Computer Bridge Design program recently won both a state and a national award for innovative cost-cutting programs.