Bridges tend to get a bad rap. It’s hard to go long without news concerning some type of incident or closure due to safety concerns related to a bridge somewhere in the world. Can technology help ensure our future is free of such a trend?

Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., is one such company that is looking to provide technology that aids in the construction and maintenance of bridges. This week at the company’s annual Autodesk University meeting, the company unveiled software updates that target the expansion of BIM (building information modeling)-related workflows across the full lifecycle for buildings and infrastructure. In particular, the new Autodesk Structural Bridge Design 2014 software will help address the need to repair or replace bridges.

The technology company cites numbers from the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials that says within the next 15 years, nearly half of the bridges in the United States will be in place for more than 50 years. In many cases, this lifespan exceeds what may have been originally intended in their design.

To address these construction and maintenance concerns, Autodesk Structural Bridge Design 2014 software includes a range of new capabilities. This includes being able to create detailed designs using productivity tools that help define bridge components more efficiently, and incorporate them into the analytical model.

An option to automatically calculate section properties for all shapes and materials, and allow for stages of construction where necessary could help save time during projects. Another time-saving feature is one aimed at those constructing small- to medium- span bridge projects, in that it automatically generates optimized traffic loading in a fully integrated environment.

Side-by-side analysis features are becoming a powerful tool in construction technology these days. Autodesk furthers this trend by including side-by-side graphical displays of data and results at all stages of analysis and design, which can help users better understand structural behavior.

The list of new features and functions is vast. Autodesk continues to take aim at providing contractors and engineers with a set of technology tools that help improve the construction and maintenance of critical infrastructure. It will be interesting to see in the next decade or so how well the bridges being built with such tools sustain for the long run.