Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) Applications in New Jersey – An Update

UHPC for Bridge Preservation and Repair is a model innovation that was featured in FHWA’s Every Day Counts Program (EDC-6).  UHPC is recognized as an innovative new material that can be used to extend the life of bridges. Its enhanced strength reduces the need for repairs, adding to the service life of a facility.   

This Q&A article has been prepared following an interview with Jess Mendenhall and Samer Rabie of NJDOT, who provided an update on the pilot projects of UHPC around the state. The interview has been edited for clarity. 

Q.  While EDC-6 was underway, we spoke with your unit about the pilot projects being undertaken with UHPC.  Some initial lessons were shared subsequently in a featured presentation given to the NJ STIC.  Can you update us on results of those projects, and did they yield any benefits in the fields of safety or environmental considerations?

For the NJDOT Pilot Project, the thickness of the overlay was limited by the required depth for effectiveness, as well as the cost of the UHPC material and environmental permitting. To mitigate environmental permitting, we avoided any modifications to the existing elevations and geometry of the structure. Essentially, any removal of asphalt and concrete needed to be replaced to its original elevations.

UHPC overlays can significantly extend the service of bridge decks and even increase a structure’s capacity. Although safety improvements were not the primary objective of this application, there were rideability and surface drainage considerations in the design to enhance the conditions for the road users.

The environmental impacts of structural designs must be compared on the cradle-to-grave use cycle of the design at a project scale.  Having a focus on sustainability is imperative; however, it is more meaningful when resiliency is also considered.  While the greenhouse gas emissions of a volume of UHPC are higher than those of the same volume of concrete, UHPC enables the reduction in the amount of material required in structural designs and improves the durability of structures. Its exceptional compressive strength and toughness allow for the reduction of material usage. By minimizing maintenance requirements and extending the lifespan of infrastructure, UHPC reduces the consumption of materials, energy, and resources over time.

For example, we installed this overlay on 4 bridges as a preservation technique. Had we done nothing, they would have lasted approximately 10 more years. During that time they would have needed routine deck patching resulting in further contamination of the decks and in a condition that is no longer preservable and requires total deck replacement, with large volumes of concrete and much more environmental impact.

UHPC allowed us to take these decks that are still in decent shape and preserve them now with a relatively thin layer to make them exceed the service life of the superstructure and substructure.

Q. Has UHPC been incorporated into the design manual?

Figure 1. UHPC being placed by workers

It is not in our current design manual, but we are working on the revised design manual. UHPC is presently being used for all closure pores between prefabricated components, overlays, and link-slabs. I don’t think we are ready to standardize it quite yet. We used it on the 4 bridges and it will continue to be used, but we will not standardize it until the industry is more predictable and we get more experience to develop thorough guidelines and specifications. It is incorporated into projects as a special provision with non-standard items.

Q. Have you been receiving more requests to use this technology from around the state?

It is much more commonly specified by designers or requested for use on many of our projects. We have responded to nationwide inquiries from state transportation agencies and universities seeking our specifications or input on specific testing and procedures.

Q. What efforts do you think can be taken to encourage more adoption amongst local agencies, counties, etc.?

We are keen on inviting the counties to any training or workshop that we are hosting as well as sharing our lessons learned thus far.  I think they are aware of it.

Q. What kind of hurdles do you think exist that may limit widespread adoption?

It is possible that initial cost and industry experience with the material are still major limiting factors in adoption. We have also learned from specialty UHPC contractors that the innovation and availability of construction equipment geared for UHPC implementation are also lacking.  Bringing into focus the life cycle costs and with more implementations, we think many of these hurdles will be overcome. Additionally, once UHPC is used more in routine maintenance the implementation would be more frequent and widespread; we know there is interest specifically in UHPC shotcrete once it is available.

Q. Are you familiar with any training, workshops, or conferences that have been done for staff or their partners on this topic?

We participated in the Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) conference in Miami, Florida, the International Bridge Conference (IBC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the New York State DOT Peer Exchange. In Delaware, we presented at the Third International Interactive Symposium on UHPC. We also participated in the development of a UHPC course for the AASHTO Technical Training Solutions (TTS formerly TC3) which is now published on the AASHTO TTS portal and available on our LMS internally. 

Q. Do you think there is any special training needed for the construction workforce to start using this technology?

Absolutely, the AASHTO TTS course and the EDC-6 workshops are geared towards the design and construction, TTS is more focused in the Construction. It’s an introduction to what to expect and how to implement it. UHPC is often used for repair projects, and many contractors may not have the experience or comfort with using the material.

Figure 2. UHPC Testing at Rutgers’ CAIT

Q. What are the results of the pilot projects of UHPC?

This Pilot projects program demonstrated that UHPC overlays can be successfully placed on various structures, the work can be completed rapidly to minimize traffic impacts — we estimated roughly four weeks of traffic disruption per stage, and the benefits of UHPC can help preserve the existing infrastructure. Compared to deck replacement, UHPC overlays can rehabilitate a bridge deck at exceptional speeds with unique constructability and traffic patterns, as implemented in all four structures. However, limitations exist, and further research is necessary to investigate the issues identified in the pilot project, but the potential of this material outweighs the existing limitations.

Q. Has there been long-term testing data developed to gather performance data?

To assess the performance of the UHPC overlay, we put together a testing program to include NDT as well as physical sampling and lab testing. This objective will be accomplished by first establishing baseline conditions through an initial survey followed by periodic monitoring of the UHPC-overlaid bridges over succeeding years. This will help NJDOT assess the performance of UHPC as an overlay. Overall, the results show the overlay bond is performing well.

Q. Has the data from the pilot project been used to research further applications?

Further applications for UHPC overlay are on new bridge decks/superstructures, and the data from UHPC overlay research project are being used for these projects. There is an interest in header reconstruction with UHPC. If deck joints need to be replaced, they should be constructed with conventional HPC with UHPC at the surface to provide the same overlay protection over the entire structure. Also, self-consolidating and self-leveling UHPC was preferred for the full-depth UHPC header placement to ensure proper consolidation around tight corners and reinforcement. This will be further explored for maintenance operations as well.

For future projects, in lieu of full-depth header reconstruction in a single lift, a partial depth header removal and reconstruction or alternatively two lifts of header concrete should be evaluated to coincide with the deck overlay, in which case the benefits of the fast cure times from UHPC can still be realized. Two of the four bridges experienced air voids throughout the placement. A UHPC slurry with no

fibers was placed in the identified air voids; since the voids contained exposed fibers, they were considered to create adequate bonding with the UHPC slurry.


NJDOT Technology Transfer (2021, November). Stronger, More Resilient Bridges: Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) Applications in New Jersey.  Interview with Pranav Lathia, Retrieved from:  https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2021/11/29/uhpc-stronger-more-resilient-bridges/

Mendenhall, Jess and Rabie, Samer. (2021, October 20). UHPC Overlays for Bridge Preservation—Lessons Learned. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Overlay-Research-Project-EDC-6-Workshop.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2021, October 20). NJDOT Workshop Report. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Workshop-Final-Report.pdf

Rabie, Samer and Jess Mendenhall (2022, December). Design, Construction, and Evaluation of UHPC Bridge Deck Overlays for NJDOT.  NJ STIC Presentation and Recording.  Retrieved from:  https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2022/12/18/nj-stic-4th-quarter-2022-meeting/

Presentation: Design, Construction, and Evaluation of UHPC Bridge Deck Overlays for NJDOT

UHPC for Bridge Preservation and Repair is a model innovation in the sixth round of the FHWA’s Every Day Counts Program (EDC-6).  Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC) is recognized as an innovative new material that can be used to extend the life of bridges. Its enhanced strength reduces the need for repairs, adding to the service life of a facility.    

NJDOT recently installed UHPC Bridge Deck overlays on four bridges in New Jersey. NJDOT engineers, Jess Mendenhall and Samer Rabie, explained the rationale for UHPC's installation and highlighted key lessons learned in bridge selection, existing conditions & testing, design, materials specifications, construction methods and evaluation during the NJ STIC 4th Quarter 2022 meeting.

Their recorded presentation, Design, Construction, and Evaluation of UHPC Bridge Deck Overlays for NJDOT, is viewable below.  Their presentation can be downloaded here or from the NJ STIC 4th Quarter Meeting page.

NJ STIC's UHPC Innovative Initiative page highlights the deployment progress and activities of the core team in seeking to advance UHPC for Bridge Preservation and Repair and contains other articles and resources.


Stronger, More Resilient Bridges: Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) Applications in New Jersey

UHPC for Bridge Preservation and Repair is a model innovation in the latest round of the FHWA’s Every Day Counts Program (EDC-6).  UHPC is recognized as an innovative new material that can be used to extend the life of bridges. Its enhanced strength reduces the need for repairs, adding to the service life of a facility.   

This Q&A article has been prepared following correspondence with Pranav Lathia, an NJDOT Supervising Engineer, Structural & RR Engineering Services, to learn more about current initiatives to test and deploy UHPC on the Garden State’s bridges. The Q&A correspondence has been edited for clarity.


Q. What is Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC), and why is it particularly useful for bridge preservation and repair (P&R)?

Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC) is a new class of concrete which contains extraordinary properties of durability and strength. UHPC is a cement based composite material, which consists of steel fiber reinforcement, cement, fine sand, and other admixtures. UHPC is a useful alternative for bridge repairs and preservation due to its long-term durability, which will minimize repairs to a specific structure over time.

Q. Why, in some cases, is UHPC a better application than traditional treatments?

Due to its chemical properties UHPC has a compressive strength of seven times that of regular concrete. Therefore, UHPC is mostly used for thin overlays, closure pours, link slabs, beam end repairs and joint headers.

Q. What are some advantages of UHPC?

UHPC overlays appear to have many ideal properties for deck surface, including superior bond strength, compressive strength, lower permeability, greater freeze-thaw damage resistance, good abrasion resistance, and rapid cure times, among others.

Q. What are some disadvantages to UHPC?

There are some disadvantages to UHPC.  UHPC has higher material costs which has to be a factor in the Department's decision process. A life-cycle cost analysis is appropriate for making a determination of whether it is a cost-effective alternative for the Department.  Fresh UHPC does not bond well to hardened UHPC, therefore careful consideration for joint construction is needed, including reinforced staging joints. There is also limited test data for construction materials to determine their ability to perform well with UHPC. In addition, the NJ construction workforce is not very familiar with the use of UHPC as an overlay.

Image of a red rectangular device that works to smooth the UHPC,

Figure 1: It is imperative that contractors establish the proper amount of UHPC fluidity to maintain the bridge deck’s grade. Courtesy of NJDOT.

Q. When is UHPC perhaps not an appropriate solution?

UHPC would not be an appropriate solution for a full deck replacement, superstructure replacement, or total replacement.

Q. What are some examples of UHPC’s previous implementations?

Before our initiation of a pilot program, UHPC had only been used for ABC (closure pours) and pre-cast connections in New Jersey since 2014.

 Q. How is NJDOT approaching the potential implementation of UHPC for bridge preservation and replacement (P&R)?

Currently NJDOT uses UHPC ABC (closure pours) for prefabricated superstructures. NJDOT has launched and implemented a UHPC Overlay Research Project in conjunction with the design engineering firm, WSP Solutions.

Q. Can you describe the how UHPC is applied in the pilot project for P&R?

In the pilot project, a 1.5” UHPC overlay has been applied to four NJDOT structures. The UHPC overlay was constructed on the bridge deck along with the reconstruction of deteriorated deck joints.

Q. What bridges were selected, and what was the rationale for their selection?

Four structures were chosen for the UHPC overlay pilot program and split into two separate contracts, Contract A (North) and Contract B (South):

  • I-295 NB & US 130 NB over Mantua Creek in West Deptford, Gloucester County
  • NJ 57 over Hances Brook in Mansfield, Warren County
  • I-280 WB over Newark Turnpike in Kearny, Hudson County
  • NJ 159 WB over Passaic River in Montville, Morris County

The selected bridges for the pilot program were in good condition to leverage the perceived long life-span of UHPC and not allow other factors to limit the potential service life. Eight candidate structures were fully evaluated and tested before the four structures were advanced. The bridges that were ultimately selected varied in their age, size and design. All the bridges had asphalt overlay.

Q. What were the evaluation criteria used for the selection of the pilots?

All structures included in the program were evaluated for suitability based on the structural evaluations, chloride content within the deck, feasible construction stages, traffic analysis results, and existing overlay depths. Chloride content was obtained from the concrete cores we had completed on each bridge deck.

Q. What best practices were learned from the pilot projects?

It was best to install the UHPC overlays in locations that UHPC would serve as the final riding surface. The Department felt that an UHPC overlay should be constructed on structures which had an existing asphalt overlay. A thinner overlay could have been provided to cut material costs. Using a pan mixer, the supplier had the ability to control the fluidity of the UHPC, which is extremely important when dealing with extreme temperatures and high deflection/ movement structures. A flow test should continue to be required to verify the proper mixing and consistency of the UHPC overlay material.

Q. Were there any innovations from the implementation of the pilot projects?

A deeper overlay could be considered as a viable alternative for structures that need major deck rehabilitation or replacement.

A bridge with a plastic cover at night, waiting for the UHPC to cure

Figure 2. An NJDOT UHPC treatment in the process of curing. Courtesy of NJDOT.

Q. How is data from the pilots being used to research further UHPC applications?

The data from the pilot program will be used to further the Department’s investigation in UHPC for applications other than just bridge deck overlays.

Q.  What can be done to prepare industry and the workforce for UHPC as an overlay?

The implementation of UHPC affects the current workforce because it is a new material to be used in New Jersey. The current workforce does not have enough experience with UHPC’s properties which could make a repair more challenging.  UHPC has only been used for closure pours in New Jersey. This knowledge gap could be solved by supplying the workforce with workshops, seminars, and suggested construction sequences, practices and equipment. A test slab should also be constructed to verify the proposed material and the contractor’s procedures.

Q. Are there needed actions to better educate NJDOT staff on its efficacy and potential uses?

Yes, training and peer exchange activities are valuable for further educating NJDOT staff on UHPC. Recently, we participated in a a two-day UHPC workshop (October 2021) with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The workshop provided participants with a greater understanding of what UHPC is, and explored solutions for using UHPC for bridge deck overlays, link slabs, and steel girder end repairs. Participants were given information on where to obtain guidance for implementing different types of UHPC preservation and repair strategies. The workshop also provided participants with the opportunity to discuss their UHPC implementation strategy, construction specifications, and design details with FHWA EDC-6 UHPC team members.

Image of a bridge with a new white smooth UHPC application on top.

Figure 3. The final product, a UHPC overlay before asphalt paving. Courtesy of NJDOT.

Q. What does the future of UHPC look like in New Jersey?

The future of UHPC in New Jersey could consist of UHPC connection repairs, seismic retrofits, column repairs, concrete patching, shotcrete, steel girder strengthening, bridge deck overlays, and link slabs.

Q. In the current EDC-6 Round, the NJ STIC states that it is planning on performing an assessment of the UHPC pilot projects. When they are complete, how will they be assessed? Could you tell us more about the long-term testing program being developed to gather performance data in the assessment phase?

These are still works in progress. A long-term monitoring and testing program is being developed to gather performance data in the assessment phase. The scope of our current efforts includes further investigation and research, collection and evaluation of performance data, updating the standard specifications and conducting a life cycle cost analysis.

Q. Can you describe the objective(s) and/or provide any other status information about the long-term program goals?

A long-term goal for the department is to incorporate UHPC into our design manual, including for P&R.Eventually we could see UHPC incorporated with bridge deck overlays and concrete bridge repairs. There is currently no timeline on incorporating UHPC into the design manual. We anticipate revising the standard specifications, but there are no updates regarding the revision of the standard specifications for UHPC.


Federal Highway Administration. (2019, February). Design and Construction of Field-Cast UHPC Connections. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/structures/bridge/uhpc/19011/index.cfm

Federal Highway Administration. (2020, November). Eliminating Bridge Joints with Link Slabs—An Overview of State Practices. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/preservation/docs/hif20062.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2018, April). Example Construction Checklist: UHPC Connections for Prefabricated Bridge Elements. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/abc/docs/uhpc-construction-checklist.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2018, March). Properties and Behavior of UHPC-Class Materials. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/structures/bridge/18036/18036.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2018, February) Ultra-High Performance Concrete for Bridge Deck Overlays. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/bridge/17097/index.cfm

Mendenhall, Jess and Rabie, Samer. (2021, October 20). UHPC Overlays for Bridge Preservation—Lessons Learned. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Overlay-Research-Project-EDC-6-Workshop.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2021, October 20). NJDOT Workshop Report. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Workshop-Final-Report.pdf

New Mexico Department of Transportation. (2010). Feasibility Analysis of Ultra High Performance Concrete for Prestressed Concrete Bridge Applications. New Mexico Department of Transportation. https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/24640

New York State Department of Transportation. (2021, June). Item 557. 6601NN16 – Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC). New York State Department of Transportation. https://www.dot.ny.gov/spec-repository-us/557.66010116.pdf

EDC-4 Final Report Highlights Innovations

The EDC-4 Final Report highlights the results of round four of the Every Day Counts program to rapidly deploy proven innovations to enhance the transportation system. “Every Day Counts: An Innovation Partnership With States” documents progress in accelerating the implementation of 11 innovations in 2017 and 2018 and success stories from States across the country.  View the report’s maps and highlights to learn how innovation implementation was advanced across the country.

New Jersey’s use of “Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC)” for the Pulaski Skyway deck replacement in northern New Jersey is a featured “Innovation Spotlight” example in this national report.  The report highlights NJDOT’s use of precast deck panels connected with UHPC, stainless steel rebar, and a polyester concrete overlay to maximize the durability of the new deck and minimize the need for future repairs and traffic disruption.  The project is recognized as the largest user of UHPC to date in North America.  Moreover, in 2012, when NJDOT selected UHPC for the Pulaski Skyway only five other transportation agencies had used UHPC for bridge construction.  Since then, the skyway has served as an informative example for other agencies. NJDOT continues to use UHPC connections and completed five other bridges in 2018, bringing the State’s total to nine bridges.

An online version of the FHWA report is viewable here.