Author: Joseph Ripley

Joe is a Structural Engineer at Hoyle Tanner with both NBIS and SPRAT certifications. He earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from UMass Lowell. Joe and his beautiful wife made the move to New Hampshire to take advantage of the great quality of living available in the Granite State. Outside of the office he has more hobbies than he often has time for including cycling, mountain biking, golfing, snowboarding, hiking, birding and camping.

New Year’s Resolution: Maintenance for Your Garage

New Years is a great time to reflect on unaccomplished goals and lay out a plan for finally checking them off your list. The same holds true for garage owners. How long have you seen that one little leak or noticed that crack in your concrete wall? How many times did you say, “I’ll call someone about that when I finally have time?” If this describes you, or if you can’t remember the last time you even thought about the condition of your garage, make 2022 the year you take action!

Garage owners are often very good at general housekeeping and day-to-day maintenance items like making sure the lights are working, keeping the garage clean and tidy, and removing snow and ice, but what they often forget about is preventative maintenance. It is important to maintain and repair your garage continuously throughout its service life. If preventative maintenance tasks and repairs are deferred year after year, the deterioration rate of the garage may occur at a faster rate and lead to costlier repairs. On the other hand, when preventative maintenance is embraced and when repairs are executed earlier, the overall repair cost can be less, and the garage’s life can be extended as seen in the figure below.1

So, what is preventative maintenance? Preventative maintenance involves checking in on your structure on a regular basis to verify that everything is working as intended and making plans for cleaning, repairing, or replacing components as needed. A typical example of preventative maintenance that often gets overlooked is the periodic cleaning and flushing of a garage drainage system. Over time, the drainage system in a garage can get clogged with sand, garbage, and leaves. This accelerates the corrosion and breakdown of the drainage pipes while also not allowing water to be carried out of the garage. Standing water poses multiple risks as it can freeze in the winter months creating a slip and fall hazard as well as seep into the concrete members of the garage with de-icing chemicals which can corrode and deteriorate the structure of the garage. On the other hand, a clean drainage system quickly and efficiently removes water from the garage before it can cause damage.

That sounds like a lot of work; where do I even start? The first step is to establish a baseline for your garage by completing a condition assessment. This involves a structural inspection of the garage which should be completed by a qualified engineer. Once the baseline of the garage is known, a realistic and useful preventative maintenance plan should be formed. For the DIY-ers, there are many great references such as the National Parking Association Parking Garage Maintenance Manual and the PCI Maintenance Manual for Precast Parking Structures that are available to help with this plan; however, reaching out to a local engineer is often the best bet. An engineer will be able to take the findings of the condition evaluation to rank maintenance and repairs in order of need, costs, and overall benefit to ensure that the preventative maintenance plan is the best course of action for your individual garage.

Hoyle Tanner has decades of experience inspecting, rehabilitating, and providing preventative maintenance plans for parking garages across New England. For us there is no “one size fits all” solution for garage maintenance and repair. We have the knowhow and experience needed to provide a unique solution for your garage. If garage maintenance is on your resolutions list, contact me!

Celebrating Walkability in the Month of April with Pedestrian Bridges

Mine Falls Park Bridge

The month of April holds some significant dates for the environment. The month kicks off with National Walk to Work Day on April 2nd, National Walking Day on April 7th, and we round out the month with Earth Day on April 22nd. In honor of our environment, we wanted to highlight a couple of our recent pedestrian bridge projects that encourage more foot and less vehicle traffic.

The Eaton Street pedestrian bridge was built in 1912 as part of the Boston and Maine Railroad. In the 1990s, the City of Nashua repurposed the abandoned railroad into a recreation path called the Heritage Rail Trail. This trail connects the Tree Streets Neighborhood to downtown Nashua and its many restaurants, small businesses, and cultural landmarks. The City closed the bridge to pedestrian traffic in December 2019 due to timber deck and old railroad ties rot. Hoyle, Tanner completed a full structural inspection of the bridge and provided repair recommendations to the City so that the bridge could be re-opened; we also made maintenance recommendations so that the bridge can remain in usable condition for years to come.

Mine Falls Park Bridge

To the north of the Heritage Rail Trail and in the center of the City is the 325 acre Mine Falls Park. The City of Nashua received NHDOT Transportation Alterative Program (TAP) funding to build a pedestrian link between Mine Falls Park and the Heritage Rail Trail. This project included many different design features in a small area such as an ADA complaint ramp system, a shared use shoulder along Everett Street, a crosswalk with flashing beacons at Ledge Street, and a prefabricated metal pedestrian truss bridge to cross the Nashua Canal. The crux of the project was to find a way to support the new bridge that would not increase or change the loading on the canal’s southern stone wall or northern earth embankment. To do this, we chose to use helical piles which transfer the bridge load into the ground below the canal. Helical piles have many advantages in urban locations because they can be installed with small construction equipment and with minimal ground vibration. The completed project was open to the public in June 2019.

Part of creating sustainable infrastructure is considering how people will use that infrastructure for years to come. The bridges we design must not only stand the test of time, but they must serve the community, as well as encourage more walkable and rideable communities!

“Climbing” the Memorial Bridge

Bridge inspection is an important part of what we do here at Hoyle, Tanner. It is also a vital part of ensuring the safety of the traveling public across the country. You might not realize it, but chances are every time you get in a car you drive across one or more bridges. Per the federally enacted National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) every bridge, big and small, old and new, needs to be inspected on a biennial basis. As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking for each state’s department of transportation (DOT), and each DOT is looking to inspect bridges faster, more cost effectively, and in less disruptive ways as to not impact the day to day usage of the bridge.

A dynamic, rapidly growing bridge inspection method is to “climb” the structure using rope access techniques. Rope access can best be pictured as a mixture of rock climbing and bridge inspection. The inspector is suspended from two ropes and can either ascend, descend or climb along the bridge. Certain bridges can often have elements that are inaccessible or uneconomical to inspect with traditional methods, such as rigging or the use of under bridge inspection vehicles. Rope access can be tailored for countless geometric challenges, which allows for a detailed, hands-on inspection of every bridge element. In other words, rope access allows inspectors to go anywhere and see any part of the bridge.

Recently a team of five Hoyle, Tanner bridge inspectors including three SPRAT1 and/or IRATA2 rope access inspectors completed a bi-annual inspection of the Memorial Bridge in Augusta, Maine. This 2,100 foot long, 75 foot high historic deck truss bridge posed many challenges for bridge inspection access. Access from the ground below was limited because part of the bridge is over the Kennebec River, and access from above was prevented by a tall chain link fencing that runs the entire length of the bridge. Most importantly, this bridge is a vital transportation route in the heart of the state capital making closing all or part of the bridge to traffic undesirable. Utilizing rope access techniques, we were able to perform a hands-on inspection of every member of the bridge from below the deck and above the river. Rope access allowed for a faster and more cost effective inspection than the traditional methods typically used.

  1. Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians– North American body for developing rope access standards and practices.
  2. Industrial Rope Access Trade Association– Internationally recognized body for developing rope access standards and practices.