Newton Advocates for Segmental Bridges as ASBI President

Barton Newton, U.S. director of complex bridges, is now guiding one of the nation’s foremost organizations for concrete segmental bridges.


Barton Newton

Newton is currently serving a two-year term as president of the American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI). His appointment to the post came after serving two years as the organization’s secretary, and two years as vice president.

“I have enjoyed my time as a member of ASBI, and it is an honor to now serve as its president,” Newton said.

ASBI is a nonprofit organization for owners, designers, builders and suppliers involved in the segmental bridge industry. It provides a forum to refine current design, construction and construction management procedures, and explore new techniques to advance the quality and use of concrete segmental bridges.

As president of ASBI, Newton supervises the organization’s business and affairs under the direction of the board of directors. He will oversee the ASBI convention on Oct. 24-25 at the Marriot Marquis in New York City.

“We are always looking for ways to increase the market share for segmental bridges,” Newton said, adding that current business includes development of training and certification material for industry, education on the benefits of segmental bridges, committee work and financial management of the institute. “We recently created a strategic plan that set goals for the organization, and then reorganized our committees to align them with those goals.”

The technology and innovation committee was among the new committees that emerged from that reorganization, which Newton now chairs.

Newton, a senior vice president in the Sacramento office, is director of the firm's Complex Bridges Technical Excellence Center, responsible for overseeing WSP’s suspension, cable-stayed, concrete segmental movable bridge projects and bridge asset management services.



WSP was one of the designers of the I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector in Tampa, Florida, which featured multiple concrete segmental bridges.

Concrete segmental bridges are built by constructing shorter sections of the structure – called segments – and piecing them together to form the completed bridge, rather than building large sections at the bridge site. It can be an economical option for longer-span bridges, especially in places where construction space is limited. “Concrete segmental bridges, properly designed and constructed, are very durable and long lasting due to the level of attention applied,” Newton said.

Respected Designer

WSP has long been an engineering and design partner in the construction of concrete segmental bridges.

“When it comes to segmental bridge design, WSP is respected at the local, national, and global level with high-level qualifications and expertise,” Newton said. “Our firm has consistently demonstrated results on some of the most technically challenging projects.”

One of WSP’s recent segmental bridge projects was the I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector in Tampa, Florida. WSP was the designer of the $426 million viaduct project for the Florida Department of Transportation.

The new road connected Interstate 4 with the Selmon Expressway and featured 23 bridges, 12 of which were segmental. A total of 2,929 segments were used to complete the segmental portions of the project.

This expressway includes dedicated truck lanes to serve an estimated 10,000 trucks every day, and provides additional route options for motorists, including more convenient access to the Tampa cruise terminal, local beaches, Tampa International Airport, and greater flexibility for hurricane evacuation.

For segment erection, five balanced cantilever erection crews and one span-by-span erection crew were used to reduce the overall project schedule. These crews, combined with state-of-the-art erection equipment, exceeded production cycles originally anticipated. Top-down erection equipment was used to minimize the number of lane closures and detours, which resulted in reduced impacts to the traveling public.



The I-4/Selmon Expressway featured 23 bridges, 12 of which were segmental.

The complex expressway was completed in three years, more than two years ahead of schedule, and received the 2015 ASBI Award of Excellence.

Building Bridges

A lifelong resident of Sacramento, Newton earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from California State University at Sacramento.

He was planning to pursue a career in building engineering when an opportunity to join the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) shifted his focus to bridges. It didn’t take long for Newton to realize this was where he wanted to stay.

While he was at Caltrans, Newton served as state bridge engineer, managing a staff of 100 engineers and administrators with responsibility for bridge projects, policies, and standards development. He previously served as state bridge maintenance engineer, responsible for the management of 12,500 state-owned bridges and the inspection of 12,600 bridges owned by local jurisdictions; and chief of staff in the Caltrans’ director’s office, where he was responsible for providing support and advice on department policy issues, and served as Caltrans’ liaison to the governor’s office, local governments, legislators and the business community.

In addition to his membership in ASBI, Newton has been a member of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ subcommittee on bridges & structures; the Federal Highway Administration’s bridge preservation expert task group; and is a current member of the Transportation Research Board’s concrete and steel bridge committees. He has also been active in the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.

Beyond the ‘Day Job’

Newton credited much of his early success to having the opportunity to work with Jim Roberts, who served as California state bridge engineer prior to Newton.

“He had a lot of involvement nationally in the bridge industry, and was very well known and respected,” Newton said. “He was the father of the California seismic retrofit program. I learned a lot from him while I was his assistant. His leadership style certainly influenced me.”

Newton added that Roberts encouraged him to become active in groups like ASBI.

“Jim reminded me that to be a successful bridge designer, it was important to get involved in more than just my day job,” Newton said. “He was a member of several organizations, and because of him, I started getting involved myself. I don’t think I would be the president of ASBI today if it wasn’t for his influence.”

Today, Newton passes along the same message to young engineers. “I always tell them that it’s important to get involved with these groups, get your name out there, and understand the ‘people’ side of what we do. It led to a lot of great opportunities for me.”

It was one of those opportunities that led Newton to continue his career with WSP in 2014 after 31-years with Caltrans. He is able to bring experience and an understanding of client concerns to every WSP bridge project.

“Our clients face the challenges of managing their existing infrastructure, including bridges, with limited resources,” Newton said. “By having first-hand knowledge of the challenges infrastructure owners face, WSP is able to provide the technical expertise to solve those challenges.”

He continues to enjoy the opportunities he has had working with his complex bridge group at WSP.

“The day-to-day challenges are always new and exciting,” Newton said. “I love the work itself, but it’s mostly the people of WSP that brings me the most enjoyment.”


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