Study finds that bridge wind speed alerting system can cost as little as $10,000 per site.

FDOT researchers use NOAA GOES system to collect wind speed alerts from bridges at a substantial savings on operational costs

Made Public Date

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has deployed a high-wind alert system for road bridges. The system assists the transportation and public-safety communities by providing real-time wind speed status information during severe weather events from each monitored bridge structure. This information is used to assist transportation managers with bridge closure decisions.

Historically in Florida when a severe weather event occurs, such as a tropical storm, hurricane, or nor'easter, local law enforcement personnel must deploy to each bridge in advance of the weather event. The officer takes periodic wind speed measurements and reports the information to their local law enforcement agency which may eventually make the decision to close a bridge. This protocol puts law enforcement personnel in harm's way unnecessarily and deploys them inefficiently precisely during a time when they may be needed elsewhere. Further, requiring them to make wind speed measurements with hand-held anemometers is not an accurate means of collecting meteorological data. There is also minimal dissemination of the pertinent wind speed data to local and regional public safety and transportation stakeholders with this protocol.

With the new FDOT wind alert system, these shortcomings will be addressed. The data is reliably collected from the system, and it is automatically and instantly disseminated to FDOT Regional Traffic Management Centers (RTMC) and to local public safety officials. All parties will have more accurate data from which to make informed decisions about critical issues like bridge closures and evacuation routes.

The system has been deployed on over twenty bridges in northeast Florida as part of a pilot project. All critical waterway bridges and interchange flyovers in this area of the state were instrumented. This included all barrier island bridges, most river bridges and the three major highway interchanges in the Jacksonville, FL area.

  • The reduced expenses associated with this project are due to the use of low cost wind-only detectors and solar-powered satellite transmitters that utilize a free telemetry service offered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called the Data Collection System (DCS). There is therefore no monthly recurring operational cost for the system (other than maintenance). The installation cost to instrument a bridge is approximately $10,000 (material and labor). FDOT is currently procuring satellite communications ground station equipment to enhance the dissemination of data to RTMCs state-wide.

System Components: Each bridge is outfitted with a Data Collection Platform (DCP) that includes an ultrasonic wind sensor installed at approximately ten feet above the bridge road deck. The wind sensor connects to a data logger that performs analytics to discern wind gusts and continuous high winds. Multiple alarm thresholds are used to detect high wind conditions, triggering the data logger to transmit an alert message via a NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES). The satellite transmitters are solar powered. The GOES transmits alerts to FDOT, where they can be disseminated via the FDOT statewide area network or via the Internet.

The full report, finalized in June 2012, assesses many strategies for Road Weather Management. These strategies improve safety, efficiency, and mobility. These findings along with the benefits and costs provide a valuable resource to those considering the implementation of Road Weather Management systems.

System Cost

Bridge Wind Speed Alert System - $10.000 per site.

System Cost Subsystem