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U.S. Army orders bridges made of recycled plastic

Axion signs $957,000 contract to build two bridges for Fort Eustis from a thermoplastic structural composite it developed with Rutgers University.

An M1A1 70-ton tank crosses a bridge made from Axion's thermoplastic composite at Camp Mackall in North Carolina. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army/Dawn Elizabeth Pandoliano

Axion International Holdings has won a $957,000 contract to provide the U.S. Army with two bridges made from a thermoplastic composite and recycled plastic, the company announced Wednesday evening.

The two bridges, which are replacing old wooden ones, will be constructed at Fort Eustis in Virginia from a proprietary Recycled Structural Composite (RSC) developed by Axion in conjunction with scientists at Rutgers University.

The railroad cross-ties will be made entirely of a plastic composed of recycled materials from both consumer and industrial plastic waste. Axion asserts that its recycled plastic railroad ties are actually longer-lasting that typical creosote-treated wood railroad ties.

Both the 40-foot and 80-foot bridges to be built will each have a high-loading rating of 130 tons, and be used to transport both locomotives and freight traffic, according to Axion.

The location is significant. Fort Eustis is home to the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, the branch of the Army responsible for coordinating the movement of personnel and cargo. The Fort Eustis motto is Einstein's famous quote "Nothing happens, until something moves." It's also the location of the U.S. Army Transportation Museum.

But this is not the first military bridge to be made out of plastic by Axion for the military. The Army has previously built plastic bridges for Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall in North Carolina using materials and structural design that allowed for a bearing load of 73 tons for tracked vehicles and 88 tons for cars and trucks. To demonstrate its strength a 70-ton M1A1 Abrams tank was driven across the bridge at its official unveiling in September.

The design and engineering of the bridges is being be done by Parsons Brinckerhoff and Centennial Contractors Enterprises.