The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

The 2014 Winter Olympics will begin on February 7th in Sochi, Russia.  The resort town of Sochi is located over 1,600 kilometers from Moscow along the Black Sea.  Sochi had very little infrastructure when the city’s bid to host the Olympics beat out Salzburg, Austria and Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2007.  In the seven years since Sochi won its Olympics bid, workers have erected 25,000 new hotel rooms, built 225 miles of road, drilled 22 new tunnels in the surrounding mountains, built four new stadiums and more.  These Olympics will be the most expensive in history with current cost estimates exceeding $50 billion.  In addition to the original $10 billion investment by the Russian government, the original financing plan called for non-budget sources to contribute $2.6 billion to tourist infrastructure, $500 million for Olympic venues, $270 million for transportation infrastructure, and $100 million for power infrastructure.  The actual cost to complete each of these items is much higher than the original estimates and many are claiming corruption plays a large role in the increased spending.

The Blackfriars Railway Bridge in London, England is now the largest-solar powered bridge in the world.  Network Rail, the company in charge of London’s rail system, unveiled the bridge at a ribbon cutting ceremony last Wednesday.  The roof of the new bridge is covered with 4,400 photovoltaic panels.  The panels will supply half of the energy needed to run London Blackfriars station, and they will help to reduce the station’s carbon emissions by 511 tons per year.  By comparison the world’s only other solar bridge, the Kurilpa Bridge in Brisbane, Australia, will save 38 tons of carbon emissions each year.

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Monday, 27 January 2014 12:32

Minneapolis Green Line Nearly Complete

The 26.8-mile METRO Green Line project, connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, is nearly complete.  Construction on the $957 million light-rail line started in 2010 and is now 98 percent finished.  The line will open for service on June 14th.  In the mean time, the Metropolitan Council will begin testing the new train cars and training 61 operators during the weekdays.   Siemens Industry Incorporated has already delivered over half of the line’s 47 cars.  The cars cost around $3.3 million each, with a total contract value of $153 million.  Siemens is also delivering 12 new cars for the Blue Line, the cities’ other light-rail line.  The Siemens LRVs will be the second generation of light-rail cars that the Metropolitan Council has purchased, and the cars will allow higher capacity trains to run at a greater frequency during rush hour.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to replace 500 bridges in the state starting in 2015, and the majority of these bridges will be built under public-private partnership contracts.  Currently 4,200 bridges, or 18% of the state’s bridges, are structurally deficient. This figure is 11% higher than the national average.  This should not be too surprising, however, because the average age of a bridge in Pennsylvania is around 50 years old.  Also, the majority of the bridges listed as structurally deficient require only minor repairs, or they are deteriorating and might need weight restrictions in the future as a result.  All of the bridges are safe, but PennDOT has identified 300 bridges that they would like to use public-private partnerships to replace.  Under a public-private partnership, a private company or team must design, build, and maintain each bridge.  PennDOT will pay the team based on their performance.

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Thursday, 23 January 2014 01:40

Construction to Start on Los Angeles Hotel

Construction will start February 15th on the Wilshire Grand Hotel development in Los Angeles, California. When built, the 1,110-foot hotel will be the tallest structure in the western United States. Pouring the concrete for the building’s foundation will be the first step in constructing the hotel. The contractors plan to pour the whole foundation, 21,000 cubic yards of concrete, continuously over three days. This will break the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous concrete pour. It will take 2,120 truckloads of concrete and will weigh 82 million pounds.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 12:35

4 Dead in Oklahoma and Nebraska Plant Blasts

Two people died on Monday morning when an animal feed plant in Omaha, Nebraska collapsed and burst into flames.  Seventeen other workers were injured, including four who are in critical condition.  Two other people died in a seperate incident when a furnace exploded at a steel plant in Madill, Oklahoma later in the day.

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Jenga is a game that debuted in 1983 that has players stack 54 rectangular pieces each cut to slightly different dimensions in perpendicular rows to form a tower.  During each person’s turn, he or she must pull one block from the tower and place it on top of the structure.  The game ends when the tower falls over, and the winner is the person who was the last to successfully place their block on top of the structure.  Jenga means “build” in Swahili, and it is currently the third most popular game in the world in terms of units sold each year.  Despite being a simple game intended for ages 6 and up, HowStuffWorks shows how Jenga can actually teach players about structural engineering.