Special Report on Innovation

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This is our next frontier: 8. As the industry expands to include factors like nutrition, stress, sleep, and companionship — not to mention alternative ways of receiving care and support — the lack of a common, structured framework to categorize both factors and the associated interventions has been a big impediment. Breaking down community silos. While healthcare can still be based on competitive principles, we must move beyond local market structures of leverage, share, and negotiating power as the axis of success.

We need much greater coordination and integration of efforts like West Side United in Chicago or what ProMedica has helped catalyze in Toledo to root out major inhibitors of health improvement in impoverished areas. This likely requires employers to band together to set heightened expectations — marrying supply with demand to foster new ecosystems and promote wide-scale adoption of innovative models. A new leadership and accountability model. When growth and margin performance are facing off against the IHI Triple Aim, business objectives tend to speak the loudest.

But the two need not be mutually exclusive. Boards and leadership teams that embrace an impact and innovation mindset will be successful stewards of investor, community, and consumer responsibility. They will become part of a sustainability legacy for generations to come. Insights in your inbox. Even when top officials do focus on highway research activities, in this en- vironment they are likely to stress projects promising immediate results.

As a result research activities may not be linked to the operational needs of agencies as closely as they might be; and research in general, partic- ularly basic and long-term research, tends to be neglected. Even when the increased program resulting from the Sur- face Transportation Assistance Act of is implemented, real outlays for highways will be still lower than they were a decade ago because of inflation. The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of broadened the funding base for each state's federal-aid highway apportionment, and the planning and research authorization increased proportionately.

The effect of this increase is, as yet, uncertain. Research projects reported. Viewed as a share of total highway program expenditures by all levels of government, highway research spending has fallen from 0. Similarly, federal highway research spending has declined both as a share of U.

J 0. Foreign Highway Research Not only are state and federal highway research programs declining, but they are also disproportionately small when compared with those in other countries. This is true despite the greater importance of roads to the U. Compared with the United States, the United Kingdom spends 10 times as much on road research, relative to program scale.

Similarly, every country for which data could be obtained, with the exception of Japan, spends more than the United States on the same basis see Table 9. Japan may be spending proportionally more; Table 9 gives data only for public spending and does not account for other sources such as joint public and private research encouraged by the Japanese government. Similar strong private-public support for research and development' is typical among many of the European countries.

One measure of success is the flow of new road equipment, materials, and additives to the United States from Europe. Examples are Chem-Trite Silane, a product from the Federal Republic of Germany for protecting bridge reinforcing bars from corrosion; a Skega product from Norway for introducing rubber crumbs into asphalt pavements; Swedish made profilometer sensors; Japanese grinders for sign removal; and an electromagnetic gauge from the Federal Republic of Germany to measure paint thickness. Although the United States benefits from such foreign investments in research, it also pays for this through a negative balance of payments.

In addition, the United States may be missing advances that are uniquely adapted to its own climate, soil, design, or traffic conditions. The remaining 29 percent was spent through independent state research programs, through the NCHRP, and through counties, other federal agencies, and highway-related industries see Table Each of these major highway research organizations and programs is discussed below. In addition some states elect to receive 0. Unique or urgent problems can be tackled efficiently and directly through this structure.

This arrangement is not well suited, however, to stimulating research on large, national problems affecting many states. The costs of large research projects may be prohibitive for any single state; and the benefits may be national in scope, making it equitable for many states to bear the cost of the research.

For these reasons, the states have created ways to pool their research funds to address common problems. Instead of attempting to deal with the problems individually in each state, the states arranged through the American Association of State Highway and. In this grass roots program research is targeted at spacific common problems and is initiated as follows: Each member organization submits critical problem statements. These problem statements are screened for mutuality of interest, immediacy of need, possible duplication of effort, and likelihood of solving the problem with a reasonable expenditure of time andinoney.

Those problems that pass screening process are further conidered by the AASHTO Select Committee on Research, which recommends undertaking a new research project or summarizing related experience in a synthesis or tabling the idea. This problem-oriented process has effectively focused research on operational problems as they emerge.

The extensive use of tate per- sonnel with operational experience ensures that the most urgent needs are addressed. The extensive review and screening processes avoid wasteful duplication of research and encourage new efforts to draw on previous and related research. The widespread participation not only assures that new or unusual problems do not go unnoticed, but also that program resources are spread across a varied mix of problems instead of being dedicated to a few significant research projects.

Many staff studies are continuing efforts in major research areas, but a significant portion of the research effort is in quick response to particular operational prob- lems and preliminary investigations of new problems. Between and , the number of researchers at FHWA was reduced from to , and 44 of the remaining staff were involved in informing others of research results rather than performing research Although FHWA's research expenditures have been roughly consistent over the past 5 years, inflation has reduced substantially the size of this program.

Because the states own and operate the majority of the highway system, they are closer to the operating problems and better positioned to try new concepts. NHTSA also funds the development of statewide accident re- porting systems, including systems for improved identification of acci- dent locations. Those systems provide an improved capability for research into accident causes, prevention, and loss reduction as well as the eval- uation of highway safety programs.

Depart- ment of Transportation funds highway transportation research projects through a special grant program. The Urban Mass Transportation Administration UMTA has also funded highway research, particularly for urban street operations and transportation systems management techniques that directly relate to street design and operation.

Policy research related to highways is performed from time to time by the Office of the Secretary of Transportation. In the recent past, the Environmental Protection Agency and. Both the U. Army Corps of Engineers and the U. Forest Service undertake research applicable to highway transportation. That research is usually directed to specific problems encountered in construction and maintenance programs or to economic analysis.

The Forest Service builds and maintains a ,mile road system nationwide, adding approx- imately 10, miles each. The U. Army Corps of Engineers manages an extensive program of research at a number of research laboratories in support of its own facilities and those of the military services. Some of this is applicable to highways, particularly that related to pavements, structures, loading areas, and airport runways. Its Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in New Hampshire provides research assistance to state highway agencies in surrounding states. Air Force and the FAA also perform research on.

The National Bureau of Standards NBS , through its Centers for Building technology and Materials Sciences, focuses on the fundamen- tal understanding of materials and developing testing methods. For the most part, their work on materials of interest to highway research is funded by other agencies as mentioned aboye. The Counties and the Cities Many county and city highway. The major associations National Association of Cotmnties and National League of Cities perform some research, develop problem statements, and disseminate research findings of in- terest to their members.

Technology transfer, rather than pure research and development, is their principal activity. Private Sector Research Highway-related research in the private sector is difficult to quantify for three reasons: lylany firms do not publicize the scale and focus of their research activities. The number of firms in each sector of the industry is large; and no one, or number of, firm s represents a signficant proportion of sector activity. Thus development of an aggregate research value requires sur- veying a large number of firms. Highway Research Activities 39 The major associations and institutes concerned with highways and highway construction have all curtailed research activities in recent years at least partly in response to declines in total construction activity during the recession.

In testimony prepared for the Committee on Science and Technology of the U. House of Representatives, the President of the, Portland Cement Association noted that cement use in was at its lowest point in 20 years. The long-term trend in the industry has also been downward. Construction, which accounted for 12 percent of GNP in , has fallen to half that figure.

In that period the major thrusts of capital investment and presumably research have been on meeting environmental standards and increasing energy efficiency. He stated: "In this kind of economic climate, it's little wonder that research was one of the extras that had to be sacrificed or. These cuts have occurred both in the Portland Cement Association and in cement companies.

Of 18 cement companies that once maintained their own research laboratories, only 6 laboratories remain. Transportation Research Board TRB The Transportation Research Board a unit of the National Research Council, which is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering was organized in to stimulate, correlate, disseminate, and when appropriate perform high- way research.

During the s TRB broadened its scope to encompass research in nonhighway modes and interactions between transportation and social, environmental, and economic issues. TRB programs are carried out by some committees, task forces, and panels comprised of more than 3, members from a wide range of scientific and technological disciplines.

State transportation departments, various administrations of the U. FHWA, U. Department of Transporta- tion, pp Henry Irwin.

Business Week. June 20, , pp. American Highways, New York, , p. Transportation Infrastructure Research and Technology. Department of Transportation.


Highway Statistics. Annual Editions. Correspondence between Transportation Research Board and the highway agencies of the countries shown. Letter from G. Highway research is characterized by unique features that affect how this focus should be achieved. For example, highway research is highly decen- tralized among all levels of government and many private organizations. No single agency controls the majority of highway research spending. Also, the quality and safety of roads and the environmental conse- quences are as important as their costs.

These special features of highway research need for large-scale in- tegration and for safety and environmental considerations combine with the requirements of all good research to form the basis of the following questions.

Answers to these nine questions can pinpoint research areas with untapped potential. Will the research yield big payoffs if successful? Is the research area currently neglected? Will the research investigate important issues previously slighted because of institutional or organizational barriers? Can the research findings be used? Does the research require an effort on a larger scale than can be expended by present programs and institutions?

Gaps in Highway Research 43 Does the research require an integrated effort or national ap- proach? Does the research respond to new and potential changes in national policy? Does the research use or respond to technological changes? Will the research improve safety or the environment significantly?

Each of these questions is discussed belOw. This chapter concludes with a list of potential research projects that appear particularly promising with respect to these questions. Past improvements in highway productivity demonstrate that such a percentage improvement has been repeatedly achieved. A good example of such improvement in productivity is the increased amount of freight moved over rural highways per dollar spent. These savings are partially the result of research-related improvements to rural highways. No doubt even greater payoffs would result from more intensive research.

The potential payoffs can be gauged in part by examining federal, state, and local government plans for highway-related expenditures in the years ahead. Maintenance, grading, and drainage are also areas in which the nation will spend large amounts and research might make the largest contribUtion to reducing massive public expenditures. Research can help to reduce these massive expenditures, but only if it can produce better, more workable products and processes. By its nature'research looks into unknown areas, and the value of the results and findings cannot be guaranteed.

Nevertheless, the inherent risks of research can be offset somewhat if major research activities are con- centrated in areas in which the largest payoffs appear achievable. Corporations, in setting their research budgets, devote substantial resources to assessing the potential market for new products. Because the highway industry has a predictably important role to play in the nation's transportation future, it is spared much of the risk that private firms face when they spend funds for research on products that may be unpopular or rapidly superseded by competing technologies.

Thus, high- way research spending might reasonably be expected to be even more "bottom-line oriented," than private sector research, inasmuch as the composition of future spending appears relatively predictable. Never- theless, this is not so.

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Expenditures Versus Distribution of Research Expenditures. One neglected area is grading and drainage. Although it accounts for more than one- fourth of all highway spending, only 2 percent of highway research funds is allocated to research in this area see Table Similarly when research and program expenditures are compared side by side, basic'paving materials research stands out as an area in which the immense payoff potential is not reflected in associated research spending.

Pavements represent nearly one-third of all industry expend- itures yet attract only one-tenth of industry research funds. When the future directions in spending, cited earlier, are taken into account, the disparity in research directed toward basic materials, paving technolo- gies, and maintenance is further emphasized. For example, a Martin Marietta Corporation executive, when asked about the low level of highway-related research in his com- pany, responded that there is no incentive to do research on highways because rigid standards and low-bid procurement practices inhibit prod- uct innovation.

Products whose first costs exceed those of competitors tend to be avoided, regardless of their life-cycle costs. Products of su- perior quality do not necessarily fare better in low-bid, set-standard procurement. As noted by another major manufacturer in a presentation to a congressional committee: "Today's highway purchasing standards are generally based on minimum specifications and low bids. There is little economic incentive for industry to provide added value, unless the specifications can be changed.

On the other hand, development of highway products could be left behind while other technologies ad- vance if the procurement structure discourages the purchase of better products and processes. Standards that are more performance-oriented than today's could encourage more private-sector highway research. However, obtaining the factual basis for developing such performance- based standards will in many cases require major new research.

Thus, current standards and institutional arrangements combine to impede research that could change standards, making some aspects of current practice self-perpetuating. Obstacles also arise from within the highway agencies. Research often fails to change practice because of limited understanding, organizational inertia, inflexible standards, a preoccupation with first costs, a mistrust of change, or a desire to perpetuate jobs. A complaint commonly voiced by seasoned researchers is: "Why bother?

We came up with a better way 10 years ago, and our operations people still won't use it. They won't learn how. For example, in recent congressional hearings, Patrick J. McCue from the Florida Department of Transportation DOT recounted the difficulties his state was experiencing with limestone aggregate in pave- ment. Relative to the high-quality granite available in neighboring Geor-. Gaps in Highway Research 47 gia, Florida limestone lacks strength and thus pavements containing the material crack and wear much faster.

Yet political realities made it futile to think about importing Georgia granite. Or, it could be instrumental in changing these political realities by demonstrating the indefensibly high costs of favoring in-state suppliers. Judging whether a research finding is politically or organizationally achievable is difficult and uncertain, but this is a key determinant of whether research changes practice. Determining what is achievable in each case is probably the most difficult, albeit the most crucial, judgment in the entire research process.

A New Watchlist

The training require- ments, organizational change, investment in equipment, cash flow re- quirements, personnel implications, and legal liabilities of new ap- proaches are crucial aspects of a research result. The usefulness of research results cannot be completely determined from laboratory results. Personnel adjustments, retraining, variable field conditions, and a host of other factors can inhibit the realization of a new product's potential. Some of these pitfalls can be avoided by linking research, product development, and product application activities.

Nevertheless, translating a research result into innovative practice de- pends on behavioral and physical factors that are risky and partly un- predictable. Similarly, whether a research result will be economically achievable involves the shape of the learning curve, uncertain economics of scale, unknown side effects, and so forth.

Because political, organizational, technological, and economic factors can make or break potential innovations, assessment of research po- tential requires judgments about the factors. Research personnel well founded in technological understanding are not necessarily well posi- tioned to make these judgments, whereas administrators and political leaders may not be fully aware of the technological options that might potentially be developed. Assessing whether an innovation is usable before investing the funds in the research to develop it requires judg- ments founded on the full range of affected interests.

While frequently very effective, con- ducting research in many, small, relatively separate projects is not ideal for certain types of problems. Long-term research projects need special emphasis to justify the sub- stantial resource expenditures and to plan for the long-term commitment of funds and management. Because most funding for highway research is subject to short-term budgetary pressures at both the federal and state level, long-term research projects are at a particular disadvantage when they must compete with immediate, tangible needs.

Moreover, turnover in the senior management of transportation agencies makes it difficult for such projects to receive continuing management attention and sup- port. Nevertheless, the national attention demanded by the nation's high- way deterioration problem during the last few years reflects the logical consequence of this neglect of long-term issues. For example, when the AASHO road test was completed in , the pavement experts sug- gested that a long-term field test embracing many climates, soils, con- struction techniques, and maintenance approaches would greatly im- prove the value and applicability of the road test results.

The plan called for a series of satellite road tests to translate the findings to different regions of the country. Ironically the highway deterioration that received such widespread media attention in might have been less severe had this research been done, and current highway funding could be more effectively spent if the results of that research were available.

The problems of recent years promise to become a blueprint for the future unless the nation devotes enough resources to finding better ways to build and manage its investment in public works. A good example of such a problem occurred recently on Florida's Interstate Some 50 miles of , mostly between Pensacola and Tallahassee, began pumping and faulting along the sides as a result of trapped water beneath the slab. These signs of pavement distress were. Gaps in Highway Research 49 unexpected on a road segment only about 8 years old.

The highway's design life was 20 years, and a radical rehabilitation should not have been necessary for several years after that time. Nevertheless, these circumstances forced Florida to rehabilitate its comparatively new highway. The engineers involved remembered: "We did everything by the book, and it still failed.

The following is an excerpt from the Florida DOT report to the Florida House Transportation Committee on Project Accountability: The most common causes of premature facility failures appear to result from the limitations of the transportation engineering technology existing at the time. Furthermore, today's technology is not yet refined sufficiently to assure freedom from occasional and often costly premature failures. The most critical need in this area seems to be for additional transportation engineering research.

This research is not being done because it requires a large-scale, long- term effort that exceeds existing institutional capabilities. Research funds are currently spread among the federal government and the states, and no organization has sufficient resources to take on a major new effort costing several million dollars a year without entirely discontinuing or substantially dislocating all of its other activities.

Thus, in the search for areas where the current system of highway research may not be tapping all of its potential, special attention should be given to large-scale proj- ects. Such projects are not inherently desirable; small-scale research involves smaller risks and fewer complications. But, large-scale long- term projects, which may result in the greatest payoff despite their cost and complexity, are most likely to be overlooked.

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Highways, in particular, because of their long lives, place exceptional demands for long-term research. Some characteristics of materials can only be studied under long-term, actual conditions. In such instances, each step in the process either depends blindly on the successful completion of earlier steps in the process or specifies, often through rigid standards, certain conditions that must be met at previous stages. In either case improving the process as a whole requires determining exactly how each step should be accomplished, bearing in mind its im- plication on other parts of the overall process.

However, different or- ganizations are involved in each stage, and none of them is able to eyaluate and control the others. An example of such a process is the construction of an asphaltic pavement, which involves ten major steps: Mining one of a wide variety of crude oils; Distributing the oil to a refinery, possibly combining it with other crude oils in the process; Refining the crude oil to produce gasoline, diesel fuel, residual oil, and so forth and asphalt; Possibly adding chemical additives to the asphalt; Quarrying the granite, limestone, or other aggregate to mix with the asphalt; Designing the asphalt mix; Mixing the aggregate with the asphalt through one of several avail- able processes; Designing the pavement section to accommodate the soils, subbase, climate, and traffic involved; Constructing the pavement; and Opening the constructed road to traffic consisting of some com- bination of vehicle loadings.

The completed road is then subjected to varying levels and kinds of maintenance that are determined by management practices, budgeting constraints, and other needs. These various links in the chain are managed by oil companies, re- fineries, chemical companies, mining companies, highway departments, mixing plants, and construction companies. Each depends on the work of others, but none is fully able to control the others.

Improving the overall chain involves evaluating trade-offs among the links. Gaps in Highway Research 51 American Concrete Institute ACI , the Asphalt Institute and many other professional and trade groups that highlight apparent coordination difficulties and use their broader organizational bases to develop solu- tions Such grass roots coordination has been and should continue to be a key mechanism for integrating the activities of the diverse orga- nizations involved in providing highways.

Informed, voluntary coordination is best suited, however, to cor- recting well-defined problems that occur between several adjacent links. Current coordination processes are unlikely to assess successfully whether the system as a whole can be improved through drastic reorganizaton of the parts or through substantial redefinition of the product. Such an overview requires more resources and stronger control than existing coordinating mechanisms can muster. Because of the immense variety in local materials, building conditions, structural requirements, and topographical features, each agency needs a strong, grass roots, problem-solving research capability to deal im- aginatively and effectively with its unique problems.

A different research approach may be warranted, however, when all states or all counties face a similar problem at the same time. When the government changes federal regulations for vehicle dimen- sions, highway design, or other system features, many states may find themselves facing identical, unresolved questions. Recently changes in truck weight limits, regulations regarding the length and width of trucks, the imposition of a national maximum speed limit, and other legislative changes have directly affected how each state and county builds, main- tains, or operates its highways.

Thus, in assessing opportunities for research, special attention should be given to the preformance of highway components that may be altered by shifts in national policy. For example, research on the effects of increased axle loads could systematically cover the range of soil types, climate conditions, construction techniques, maintenance practices, and traffic loadings present in various parts of the country.

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These could be tied into a single, carefully coordinated experiment in which coverage. Such coordination would greatly improve the transferability of results achieved by the present bottom-up system. Currently states, universities, and counties share their results; but meaningful comparison is impaired because not all relevant conditions have been explored, or because different studies used different measurement techniques, recorded dif- ferent characteristics of the process, and so forth.

Equally important, many of these organizations do not have the available resources and skills to monitor properly new developments in technology. In seeking innovative applications of exotic new tech- nology to highways a centralized approach can be warranted. For ex- ample, if advances in computer technology make automated vehicle navigation or automated vehicle guidance feasible, the widespread po- tential for such an advance could justify a concerted national research effort.

Even though the death rate on U. Research has greatly improved and can continue to improve the safety of highway travel. The Interstate highway system, with its superior geometric features and access control developed through research, has less than one-half as many fatalities per vehicle mile as the primary system. Gaps in Highway Research 53 information that will improve understanding of highway safety and help identify the parts of the system most amenable to improvement.

Does Innovation Guarantee National Success?

State programs have also given top priority to safety. State programs, such as those in New York, Michigan, Utah, and Washington have developed innovative information systems to track accident locations, law enforce- ment data, and highway systems data. Although safety has accounted for the lion's share of research dollars 27 percent of all FCP spending is for safety research , continued fi- nancial support could lead to big payoffs.

One promising area is the relationship between highway geometrics and safety. This issue has been receiving added attention as the nation turns increasingly to resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation 3R of roads instead of constructing entirely new roads. Efforts to set national standards for 3R have failed repeatedly partly because of the diversity of local conditions that must be embraced by such standards and partly because of the lack of fun- damental knowledge of how specific geometric features affect highway safety.

Other benefits to both the economy and the environment, items that never show up on a budget, can be attained through research. For example, deicing salt represents only about 10 percent of a highway department maintenance budget, even in a cold state such as New York. Such nonbudgetary payoffs are another key determinant of where highway research spending might best be placed.

This list is the distil- lation of much discussion, redefinition, and evaluation. Ideas and sug- gestions came from highway practitioners, research personnel, previous research reports, and various other sources. Although the list is not comprehensive and other areas are clearly deserving of research, the six research projects selected were judged to be particularly demanding in their resource requirements and particularly promising in their po- tential payoffs. This focus of resources on six particularly massive problem areas must not distract from the thousands of other areas where research continues.

Nevertheless, the six areas given below stand out as promising large potential payoffs but large-scale investments will be required to achieve that potential. An integrated evaluation that carefully monitors asphalt from various crude oil sources through to various field uses. At present, crude oil suppliers, refiners, mixing plants, contractors, state highway departments, and others participate fairly autonomously in a chain of events that takes asphalt from the ground and converts it to a paving material.

Most of these organizations cannot control what happens to this ma- terial at other points on the chain. Long-term pavement performance. In spite of all the national con- cern about substandard highway condition, the United States has not systematically studied highway performance since the AASHO Road Test in to That test was a massive experiment that gave the nation, and indeed the world, its soundest understanding of the prop- erties of pavement; nevertheless it leaves many unanswered questions.

By necessity this test represented only one climate, was conducted in an accelerated fashion, and incorporated some atypical maintenance procedures. A long-term field test that systematically covered a wide range of climate, soil, construction, maintenance, and loading conditions could substantially refine and expand the findings of the AASHO Road Test, thus yielding massive payoffs in terms of reduced construction and 3R expenditures.

Maintenance cost-effectiveness. Maintaining the nation's 4-million- mile state and local road network requires more than one-third of the total highway budget, and the share of highway resources going to main- tenance is growing. In spite of this spending, continued deterioration of the nation's road systems shows the need for more efficient and more effective maintenance.

Methods, equipment, and materials have changed little in 20 years although the mileage and traffic volume of the highway system have increased dramatically. The opportunity for major improvements througJ. Gaps in Highway Research 55 maintenance research is substantial: further mechanization, improved repair materials, off-site prefabrication, or more efficient staffing and scheduling could all yield substantial savings. Protection of concrete bridge components.

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An epidemic of bridge deck deterioration plagues the United States. Some , bridges are currently deficient, and 3, more become deficient each year. Bridge deterioration will continue unless technology is developed to arrest the corrosion process in existing salt-contaminated bridge decks and to pro- tect from contamination or corrosion those new and replacement decks being constructed today.

Two areas of research seem promising in the search for ways to extend bridge deck life: preventing deterioration of chloride-contaminated decks through electrochemical removal of chlorides, impregnation of the deck and upper steel, or cathodic protection; and preventing deterioration of new and uncontaminated decks through newly developed protection systems for the reinforcing steel and external or internal sealants for the deck surface.

Cement and concrete in highway pavements and structures.

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Yet industry research is diminishing right at the time the quality, reliability, and utility of this basic building material are the most important. Concrete is used for 85, miles of roads, thousands of miles of median strips, curbs, and virtually all sidewalks. Most bridge decks, short-span bridges, and the supporting structures for thousands of bridges are also made of concrete.