Real-time Monitoring and Evaluation of Bridge Scour

Science Center Objects

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is tasked with maintaining roadways crossing over large streams and rivers where sediment transport and channel alignment changes can affect the structural stability of bridges. Streambed scour is the leading cause of bridge failure in the United States. The costs associated with restoring damaged structures are substantial, but are less than five times the indirect costs associated with the disruption of traffic.  

 Structural stability during and immediately after peak streamflow can be assessed by measuring streambed scour; however, placing personnel or boats in the water during high-streamflow events using traditional methods can be difficult, hazardous, and time consuming.

To address this need, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Colorado Department of Transportation, installed instrumentation at two bridges in western Colorado to measure streambed elevations in real-time during snowmelt-runoff periods (May through June) in 2016 and 2017. The bridges include U.S. Highway 50 eastbound over the Gunnison River at milepost 70.0  and Colorado Highway 141 over the Gunnison River at milepost 153.7.