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Student Bridge Projects to Be Considered | News, Sports, Work


WVU Photo As a WVU student pursuing a civil and environmental engineering major, Benjamin Opie was part of a group of students who researched solutions for replacing two of Morgantown’s failing bridges, including the Scotts Run Bridge at Lazzelle Union Road. The state Department of Highways will implement the students’ recommendations when construction of the new bridges begins in 2025.

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University engineering students lent their expertise to help build new bridges in Morgantown.

Benjamin Opie, a civil engineering major from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, is one of a group of students in WVU’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources enrolled in a capstone course offered by Wadsworth’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. During the spring 2024 semester, he studied the costs and benefits of different bridge designs and materials, and assessed conditions at two local bridges in need of replacement.

Opie helped lead a group that focused on replacing the Scotts Run Bridge at Lazzelle Union Road, while a second group worked on designing a replacement for the Fieldcrest Bridge that spans West Run Road. Both bridges are in poor condition, despite being only a few decades old, according to Opie, and the bridge that spans Scotts Run has cracks on the underside of its beams and the top of its deck, among other issues.

Associate Professor Karl Barth, who teaches a bridge design class, said engineers from the West Virginia Department of Highways, in collaboration with Nucor Corporation, High Steel Structures and Cleveland-Cliffs, will use the students’ designs to replace the troubled bridges, with work starting in early or mid-2025.

“The two bridge projects we worked on as part of our capstone course represent cutting-edge technologies with significant potential to improve the economy and efficiency of infrastructure.” Barth said. “These classes were the ideal environment to develop these technologies, and both WVDOH and the steel industry, represented by the American Iron and Steel Institute, are excited about the opportunity to implement them.”

Students taking part in the Barth Bridge Capstone course designed the structure with stability, durability and cost-effectiveness in mind.

“We wanted to propose a project that would last a long time” said Opie. “Like many bridges built during that time period, the current Scotts Run Bridge is what’s called a box-beam concrete structure. We wanted to move away from that because it tends to fail earlier than it should. We evaluated options that could last 75 to 100 years.”

Opie described the graduation ceremony as “The final of all finals. Everything you do in four years prepares you for this. This is the project that prepares you to go out and work in industry. Throughout the semester, you talk to a lot of different professional contractors and consultants to get their perspectives. These are people who are actively designing bridges or working on projects like ours, who showed us software models, talked to us about pricing, and explained the approaches they would take in the field, given our conditions.”

Opie found he could draw on his experience during a 2023 summer internship with engineering consultancy Michael Baker International, which gave him a foundation in reading engineering drawings and becoming fluent in bridge design terminology.

The culmination of all this was the synthesis “every single piece of civil engineering. It brought everything together,” he said.

“It brought in structural analysis as we looked at the bridge superstructure and our options for steel and concrete materials. It brought in environmental and water as we looked at hydraulic and hydrological analysis. We talked about the substructure and where the bridge rests on what we call abutments, and that brought in geotechnical. We talked about how we were going to manage traffic control during construction, and that brought in transportation engineering. For me, the biggest takeaway from the capstone project was seeing all of these aspects of civil engineering come together.”

Barth said the research conducted by Opie and his colleagues will have a direct impact on codes of standard practice.

“The students’ work will benefit the people of West Virginia as well as other states where their work will have an impact on practice. This partnership between the University and WVDOH is a collaboration that fulfills our land-grant mission while engaging WVU civil and environmental engineering seniors in a unique student learning opportunity.”

The WVDOH chief said the partnership is mutually beneficial because students can contribute to the agency’s plans to improve the state’s infrastructure while also learning how the agency operates.

“Nobody values ​​education more than I do” Said Jimmy Wriston, West Virginia Secretary of Transportation. “As an advocate for higher education, we are excited to partner with our engineering schools to ensure the next generation of engineers is ready, willing and able to apply practical, real-world experiences to their skill set.”

Although Opie had been offered a job as a field engineer in Baltimore, he decided to continue his education in the master’s program in civil engineering at WVU.

“At times, working on the project was difficult and frustrating” He admitted, “but at the end of the day, being able to work through it and see it all come full circle is one of the best feelings I’ve had in a while.”



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