RABIT Bridge Deck Inspection Tool Receives Pankow Award

At its annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Gala held on March 20, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia, the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded its prestigious Charles Pankow Award to the RABIT Bridge Deck Inspection Tool, celebrating the tool’s sustainable, innovative design.

The tool automates data collection and simultaneously deploys multiple nondestructive evaluation technologies such as ground penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity, and acoustic arrays for impact echo and surface wave testing to capture the condition of the bridge much more quickly than it was possible in the past. It is the product of the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center’s Long-Term Bridge Performance Program, of which Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) is a principal investigator. Other collaborators include Geomedia Research and Development, and IDS–Italy (Ingegneria Dei Sistemi).

In a letter to Nenad Gucunski, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rutgers School of Engineering, the Pankow selection committee was, “most impressed that RABIT is an important development in assessing structural health.”

Professor Nenand Gucunski accepted the award on behalf of the collaboration. In his acceptance speech, he said Victor Mendez, acting deputy secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, supported RABIT from its first demonstration.

According to Gucunski, Mendez saw the first demonstration and said he, “[wanted] you all to remember this day; this is the start of a whole new industry. [He sincerely hopes] that it inspires many new approaches and devices in the years ahead as we grow accustomed to seeing robots on our bridges and highways.”

In winning the Pankow Award, FHWA, CAIT, and their team join a group of distinguished innovators that have included engineering design firms, research institutes, state departments of transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, public utilities, and universities across the country.  

The FHWA is currently improving RABIT’s operation on bridges in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The administration will further use the data RABIT collects to develop a solid understanding of concrete bridge deck deterioration, create more reliable predictive models of the deterioration and contribute to the development of more realistic life cycle cost models. In the next five years, the collaboration hopes to see RABIT operating on 1,000 bridges nationwide.

Pictured (L to R): Dr. Basily Basily, Dr. Kristin Dana, Dr. Hung La, Dr. Nenad Gucunski, George Pagan (FHWA), Dr. Hamid Ghasemi (FHWA), Hooman Parvardeh