One day after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake devastated Mexico City, scientists in Nevada are testing an innovative bridge design that is meant to withstand tremors of this scale. ABC News reports that the University of Nevada, Reno earthquake lab uses a giant shake table to create a simulation. The scientists places concrete columns and beans on the table, shaking them in 30-second intervals.
Saiid Saiidi, professor of civil engineering and project leader in the lab, said in a statement to ABC News that the bridge performed better than the team anticipated. He also said that improving infrastructure like this would make cities a safer place to be during a seismic event.
“Earthquakes by themselves don’t kill people — it’s the structures,” he said.
When the earthquake hit Mexico City and the states of Mexico, Morales, and Pueblo, at least 216 people were reported dead, according to CNN. The epicenter of the quake was 2.8 miles outside of San Juan Raboso and 34.1 miles outside of the city of Puebla. In addition to the death toll, at least 12,000 people were displaced.
The Nevada earthquake project, in particular, is designed to remedy some of the aftermath of the earthquake. Bridges pose a significant hazard after seismic activity because they are often not safe for travel. With over 200 million trips taken over defective bridges in the United State’s 102 largest metro centers on an average day, earthquakes pose an extra hazard.
ABC News reported that previous designs by the scientists have been implemented in a Seattle bridge. The bridge has flexible columns and reinforcement bars that bend and spring back when faced with tremors. They have also developed a pin system that uses a steel pipe to anchor the bridge’s columns. These pipes can rotate within a steel can without collapsing.
As of this June, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the value of the nation’s commercial construction industry at $437.8 million. And in the wake of several recent natural disasters, the government will need to allocate recovery funding to the states and territories affected.
The University of Nevada project could be a step in staying ahead of disaster relief, by preventing major infrastructure damage in the first place. The project is funded by the California Department of Transportation. According to ABC News, the department is also developing 10 projects related to bridge technology.