New York’s Bronx-Whitestone Bridge Span to Feature 390 Composite Wind Fairings

26 January 2003

The first of 390 composite wind fairings, made of fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) composite material, was made last week in the production facility of Hardcore Composites in New Castle, Del. The all-composite wind fairings, ranging in length from 14 to 25 feet, will be installed on both sides of the Bronx-Whitestone bridge span, replacing the existing stiffening trusses – a total of 7,400 feet.

It is thought that this venture constitutes the largest use of structural composites in the world to date.

Early in 2002, Hardcore Composites was awarded the contract to construct composite wind fairings for the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge that connects the lower Bronx of New York state to Whitestone, Queens, N.Y. on Long Island. While there are a number of wind fairing applications on bridges around the world, all are made of metal. The advantage of composite wind fairings is evidenced by the decreased weight load to the bridge and added longevity of the parts due to the superior corrosion resistance of composites.

More than 890,000 pounds of composites will be employed by the time the project completes in mid-2003. This project showcases the use of composites in a large civil engineering application. At full production, the company will run three shifts, six days a week to manufacture four to eight wind fairings a day at the facility in New Castle, Del. The 390 wind fairing parts will be made in two dimensions: 14 and 25 feet in width, eleven feet deep and seven feet in length from the inside edge to the outer nose. The existing stiffening trusses, added to the bridge in the mid-1940s to give it greater stability in windy conditions, will be removed permanently from the bridge, consequently decreasing the overall weight of the bridge. The wind fairings are designed to decrease the horizontal load on the structure from the wind.

During past bridge inspections, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), the division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City that operates the bridge, discovered that the existing cables of the suspension bridge were not performing to design capacity. This was caused by corrosion, wire breaks in the cable, and extra weight added to the bridge from numerous renovations over a period of 30 years. To address this problem, Weidlinger Associates, the principal engineering firm for the project, designed wind fairings. Although steel wind fairings have been employed on other bridges in the past, Weidlinger noted that composite wind fairings would work best to address the weight issue on the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.

The general contractor for the bridge renovation project, and noted bridge construction company, NAB Construction Corporation headquartered in College Point, New York, put the wind fairing manufacturing contract out for bid. Hardcore Composites, one of four composite companies involved in the bidding process, won the manufacturing contract.

“This is a rapidly evolving industry,” says Scott Hemphill, President, Hardcore Composites. “We have an operation dedicated to large composite parts, while many people in this business work on a smaller scale. With a 100,000 square foot production plant, 13 acres of storage space, and an experienced composites workforce, we’re committed to making this a successful venture for NAB Construction, Weidlinger Associates, and the MTA Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.”

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