FHWA launches new bridge safety initiative

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The U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday, March 21, announced a new and improved bridge oversight initiative intended to enable the Federal Highway Administration to more closely monitor how states are performing their bridge inspections and maintenance. “The safety of our nation’s bridges is of paramount importance,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says. “There is always room to do better, which is why we have launched this new safety initiative.”

The new approach allows FHWA to more clearly and easily identify bridge issues in each state. Previously, FHWA prepared a written assessment of a particular state’s bridge inspection program based on the outcome of a general review of key inspection areas. Under the new system, FHWA will replace the narrative with an actual grid of 23 specific inspection program areas to identify potential safety challenges more easily. Inspection areas include such items as bridge load limits, loss of sediment from the foundation due to erosion and inspection frequency by individual states.

FHWA says that because the new system is based on more objective data, it provides for more consistency in the bridge inspection program nationwide and more targeted approaches to identifying problem areas in specific states. In addition, during the last year, FHWA performed supplementary error-checks on data submitted by states, conducted workshops and created working groups with states, industry and academia to promote and share best practices in bridge inspection and preservation.

“We take our stewardship role very seriously,” says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “As part of our ongoing commitment to the bridge program, we have adopted these measures to ensure the continued safety of our nation’s bridges.”