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Industry Leaders, Tennessee Officials Explore Composite Solutions for Rural Bridge Structures

Lightweight Materials, Materials

It looks like a simple creek crossing. A small deck, some guardrails, riprap below. On the windy roads of rural East Tennessee, there are thousands of small bridges that look similar, but this bridge is like no other. The Little Bridge That Could has the power to change the way we approach infrastructure in America.

Morgan County, Tenn., is the lucky recipient of the first composite bridge installed by IACMI-member Composite Applications Group (CAG) along with several partners in February 2021. The bridge deck is made of fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP), a composite material that replaces the traditional concrete bridge. With 1/10th the weight of concrete, composite materials are easier and faster to install; this one took just two hours. Another major benefit is longevity. Since the materials don’t corrode and crumble like steel and concrete, this bridge is projected to need minimal maintenance and last 100 years. Some say longer.

“When you’re looking at rural communities that are tasked with a budget and you can give them a 100-year solution versus a 20-year solution, it’s a big win for a lot of economically constrained communities,” says Jeff McCay, President and Founder of CAG.