The Town of York, Maine, reconnected with its roots by having a bridge built in a historic area using state-of-the-art plastic materials.
The town purchased STRUXURE Composite Infrastructure beams, pilings and boards – all made out of 100% recycled plastic materials – from New Providence, N.J.-based Axion International Inc. for the 26-foot-by-15-foot bridge over Rogers Brook, which is adjacent to the York River.
Construction on the project wrapped up in December and it bears a list of achievements: the first recycled plastic vehicular bridge in Maine and the first plastic bridge used in a public highway application in the U.S.
The town paid $70,000 for the materials and $25,000 for construction.
The bridge is about three miles from the historic Sewall’s bridge on the York River, which is a pile-driven wood design built in 1934 to replace a bridge that had stood since 1761, said York Public Works Director Dean Lessard.
That bridge, named after its creator Major Samuel Sewall Jr., was designated as a “historic civil engineering landmark” in 1986, according to Maine’s Department of Transportation.
Lessard said the plastic bridge sports a vintage look similar to its old counterpart.
“It bridges York’s historic past to the future,” Lessard said. “We were looking for something that would maintain that historic look.”
The town decided to go with plastic because it requires no maintenance and is environmentally friendly, Lessard said.
Plastic bottles may be some environmentalists’ enemy because of their longevity in landfills, but that longevity makes them a perfect component for bridge-building. Plastics can last thousands of years, plus they’re unharmed by the elements, said Steve Silverman, president and CEO of Axion International. The company secures its plastic materials from post-industrial and post-consumer waste streams, he said.
Axion’s STRUXURE products also have been used for bridges at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Peeblesshire, Scotland. Its clientele spans the globe, including South America, Mexico, Australia and Europe.
“First of all, it’s impervious to the elements. The sun doesn’t affect it and there’s no maintenance required,” Silverman said. “[Then there is] the obvious element of sustainability. We don’t cut down trees and we don’t burn fuel to manufacture the product.”
Silverman said the plastic composite products are in competition with traditional infrastructure staples like steel, wood and concrete.
Although Axion’s materials are “price compatible” with its competitors, Silverman said the STRUXURE line is more advantageous when the costs over the entire lifecycle are considered.
York’s bridge was built under the guidelines of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
Mal Kerley, chair of the AASHTO subcommittee on bridges and structures, said the approval process for a plastic bridge is no different than it would be for wood or steel.
“[It’s going to be] used more and more over time. There is a lot of interest,” Kerley said. “We’re trying to promote new technologies that would minimize maintenance.”
Lessard said the new bridge connects a residential area in the 14,500-person town to a business district. People have already sent emails saying how proud they are of the project.
The bridge goes along with many residents’ desire to be more sustainable, he said. The town is also considering building a pedestrian walkway out of plastic boards.
“There is definitely a philosophy here in town to be green. All buildings must be LEED-silver-certified,” he said.
Contact Waste & Recycling News reporter Vince Bond at email@example.com or 313-446-1653.