Civil engineers help ensure infrastructure safety

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
  • National Guard Bureau
As the response to flooding in Colorado transitions from emergency and rescue missions to those of recovery support, members of the Colorado Air National Guard's 240th Civil Engineering Flight have been working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to inspect bridges for any sort of damage that may have occurred from the floods.

"What we're doing is providing two teams that are performing bridge inspections," said Air Force Lt. Col. Jerry Milliman, the programs element chief with the flight. "These are bridges that have experienced flooding and CDOT needs what they call a Phase Two Inspection--a more thorough inspection--of them to determine their condition."

That inspection process starts with visually going over the roadway surface of the bridge.
"Bridge inspection is a fairly well standardized process and it has been for quite some time," said Milliman. "When we inspect a bridge we basically start from the top down. We inspect the deck--the driving surface--the drains, to make sure the roadway is intact and the guardrails are as they should be to protect the traveling public. "

Following that, team members look at the structural support elements of the bridge.

"We'll look for anything that's out of order in terms of what it looks like as compared to the plans," said Milliman. "If anything is out order we'll make a note of it and it affects the condition rating of the bridge."

Areas around the bridge are also inspected.

"We also look at the channel up and down stream to see if there is any debris or any major change in the channel that has occurred," said Milliman. "If there is debris still in contact with the bridge, that needs to be removed as soon as possible so that when the next rush of water comes down here that debris can't do more damage to the bridge."

The task brings with it various challenges, said Milliman, especially with water levels still above normal levels.

"It's tough to see (certain areas) and it's muddy so we have to do the best we can as far as gauging and sounding those areas," said Milliman. "We look at those areas as carefully as we can from the vantage points that we have with safety being tops in our mind."

But, even with those challenges, Milliman said he was glad to be able to take part in recovery operations.

"For those of us that have bridge inspection experience this is a great way for us to put our skills to use when the state really needs us, so we're really happy to serve and help CDOT," he said.

Inspecting bridges also allows for a return to normalcy for those in the area.

"Obviously, people's lives and businesses are being impacted by these bridges being closed," said Milliman. "In some cases I think we'll be able to give CDOT the information they need to open these bridges and in most cases we'll be able to give them information on what they need to do to repair them and protect these bridges, which is very important to the community."

And Milliman said he and other members of the unit were glad they could provide additional support to help return things to normal.

"Obviously it's a tragic situation," he said. "But, we're glad we can support in the relief effort. We're just really happy to serve. This is right up our alley, right in our lane."