Sky’s The Limit For “Bridge In a Backpack” Technology 

The Blackstream bridge in Hermon has been used by snowmobilers since 1978. It’s being replaced. The construction crew on that job says such a project would normally take about a month but they say they’ll have it done in about 4 days. It’s all thanks to technology developed at the University of Maine.Folks at the Penobscot Snowmobile Club have been trying to get grant money to replace the past bridge for the past three years. “We think it’s been around since 1978,” says Trail Master Byron Ogden. “And it was just made out of trees and 4 x 6 timbers.”The new design for the snowmobile bridge will be slightly more advanced. They’re using the new “Bridge in a Backpack technology,” a concept that interested the Ogden from the start. “The technology and the lifespan,” he says. “I think they’re saying around 100 years for a lifespan. That’s far superior to a wood frame bridge.”The technology came out of the Advanced Structures and Composite Center at the University of Maine. Dr. Habib Dagher is the Director of the center and was in on the design. The “Bridge in a Backpack” consists of arches that come rolled up in a backpack. You can fit a 60 foot arch in one bag. “These tubes get inflated on site and they get infused with resin and they become harder than steel in about 3 hours and then you can fill them with concrete.”Construction workers who work with the new bridges, like Randy Gardner of Gardner Construction Enterprises, say it makes their lives much easier. “These bridges are huge time savers, he says, “add to that the lifespan is triple of any other type of bridge that’s being built right now.”Dr. Dagher says this new technology will allow construction workers to build bridges much faster. And in a state like Maine where the construction season is a short one that could be a huge asset. “So this is a faster way to build bridges and because of the corrosion we have, the salts we use on the roads, the de-icing chemicals,” says Dr. Dagher. “These bridges last longer because there’s no steel in there that will corrode inside the tubes.”The “Bridge in a Backpack” has now spun off into a business, advanced infrastructure technologies, that employs 10 people and is expanding by the day, taking orders for bridges from all over the world. Some of their employees are University of Maine graduates who helped to invent it. “They got to to stay in Maine and work with a technology they helped invent here at the University of Maine,” says Dr. Dagher.