The most expensive part to maintain throughout the lifespan of a reinforced concrete bridge is the deck, largely because rehabilitation occurs after degradation is visible on a surface. However, the mechanisms that are the cause of deterioration, such as reinforcing bar corrosion, are initiated long before damage is detected via visual inspection. If rebar corrosion can be detected in its early stages, before severe deterioration has resulted, maintenance costs can be significantly reduced and the life cycle extended.

Recent studies have shown that ground penetrating radar (GPR) rebar reflection amplitude attenuation correlates with active corrosion in reinforced concrete bridge decks. A significant advantage of GPR over other non-destructive evaluation (NDE) methods is its ability to be operated at highway speeds so that traffic is not disrupted. However, a well-defined GPR amplitude threshold allowing the operator to distinguish non-corroded from corroded areas of the deck has yet to be established. Because reinforcing steel corrosion is the most predominant cause of bridge deck deterioration, this research seeks to quantify the thresholds relating GPR signal amplitudes and rebar corrosion.

One bridge deck removed from service, seventeen artificially corroded slabs, and one in-service bridge deck were analyzed using GPR and half-cell potential (HCP), which measures the amount of active corrosion and is currently considered the standard NDE method. A significant correlation between these two methods was found for each case. To systematically determine a threshold for the GPR so that deteriorated areas of the deck can be identified, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were utilized. With an accuracy of over 87% for each scenario, this method clearly demonstrates the use of GPR for distinguishing corrosion in bridge decks.

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