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Md. Uses New Technology To Keep Drivers Safe

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — New technology designed to keep drivers safe by spotting weak bridges could be installed on Maryland roadways soon.

As Gigi Barnett explains, one University of Maryland scientist is behind the new system.

In August 2007 in Minneapolis, a bridge collapsed.  Thirteen people were killed and more than a hundred more were wounded.  It caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.  It’s the result of an old, unkempt bridge.  Could that happen again…in Maryland?

“Within our state, there has been good care of the infrastructure but part of the problem is national,” said Mehdi Kalantari.

For the last decade, Kalantari has studied Maryland’s bridges.  He’s a professor at the University of Maryland and he’s developed a system to pinpoint the state’s weakest roadways with tiny sensors strategically placed on a bridge.  They can detect what engineers can’t see.

“When a problem happens somewhere, it’s going to spread through other components of the bridge,” Kalantari said.  “If something is wrong, it will tell us exactly what is the problem and where it is.”

Kalantari says one sensor costs about $50.  They should be installed on older bridges and the system is completely wireless right now.  He’s testing at least two Maryland bridges with these but he says at least 30 percent of the bridges nationwide need his system.

“If something is not done, 10 or 15 years down the road, we are going to have a major problem,” Kalantari said.  “I think we are still safe but we cannot say that this would be the case 10 years down the road.”

Kalantari’s sensor system is on the northwest branch bridge of the Capital Beltway and on the Conococheague Creek Bridge in Frederick.

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