Less populated areas of the United States often have less in the way of developed infrastructure. Sometimes a bridge just is not necessary when people have been using low water crossings for generations. Why throw money at something that doesn’t need fixing? There are ways to make low water crossings more functional and reliable, however.
Occasionally low water crossings clog underneath or have problems draining. Fixing or replacing them is also more expensive than people think. A great way to increase the safety and reliability of a low water crossing is to replace the existing one with a cable concrete mat system—here is why:
Low water crossings are often placed in a low water volume section of a water path, usually a stream or shallow river. They are much less expensive and equally as functional as a bridge, not to mention they make far less of an impact on the environment. Usually the low water crossing simply consists of a reinforced driving surface along with some sort of draining mechanism. In many cases, this involves pipes running beneath it to allow water through, along with drains on top to allow water to drain through the bottom.
Given their frequent contact with water, low water crossings are very susceptible to erosion and damage. Sometimes this happens slowly over time, or quickly during especially high water levels or when a large physical object travels down river and either clogs underneath, or damages the concrete itself.
Good solutions to flawed design
Fully replacing low water crossings is typically expensive, yet needs to happen pretty frequently due to this erosion and to maintain safe standards for usage. The main design flaw with low water crossings is that they are one large single unit composed of a material that erodes over time. Water creates expansions and contractions in concrete, so the constant contact causes considerable damage over time. This is not to mention all the other things nature can throw at a low water crossing.
The other design flaw is finding the sweet spot for just the right amount of drainage. Too much drainage would compromise overall strength, while too little eliminates the ability to use that section of the stream as a crossing. Given the problems and expenses of this design, it can benefit local communities to look for new solutions to this old problem.
One such solution is to use cable concrete mats. These mats are perfectly designed for low water crossings. They are comparatively inexpensive, can be laid anywhere and will form to the contours of the existing terrain, eliminating all of the problems that come along with traditional designs.
Cable concrete mats are basically large sections of high-strength concrete adhered to one another with stainless steel cables. This leaves space between each block, perfect for adequate draining. They also will not clog as a result of these spaces, and even better, are far less susceptible to erosion over time. Given their cost when compared to replacing an existing low water crossing, just about any community would benefit from switching to a system of cable concrete mats.